PORTLAND, ME, July 31, 2008 - Frank Blethen, Chairman of Blethen Maine Newspapers (BMN), today announced that the company has signed a letter of intent with Maine Media Investments, LLC, a Maine-based investor group. The letter of intent provides a limited exclusive time period to negotiate terms for the sale of BMN’s assets. Maine Media anticipates that BMN employees will have an opportunity to share in the ownership of the new company. Both parties are hoping to conclude this process as quickly as possible, but no timeline is being disclosed.
Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, a newspaper merger-and-acquisition firm in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is representing Blethen Maine Newspapers in this transaction.
Maine Media includes some of Maine's best known and highly respected figures. It is led by former Maine Senator and Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and his long-time friends and business associates Michael Liberty and Robert Baldacci of Portland, along with Richard L. Connor, a Bangor native with 40 years of experience owning and operating newspapers who will serve as senior operating partner.
The BMN assets include three Maine daily newspapers: Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal (Augusta) and Morning Sentinel (Waterville). The MaineToday.com online site and a number of non-daily print publications published by BMN would also be included in the transaction.
Blethen said he is hopeful the sale can come to fruition. He observed that “this locally-backed ownership group would provide a favorable outcome for the community, our readers, our employees and the Blethen family.” Further, he noted that a sale to this group would likely result in the most seamless and timely ownership transition. He said that is partly because other potential buyers would not likely move forward with a purchase until an ongoing disagreement with the Portland Newspaper Guild concerning the interpretation of a successor clause in the guild’s contract is resolved through pending legal action.
Cohen, who is joined in the venture with his son Kevin, president of DoubleMan Media, said the group is confident they can build a partnership with the local community and the employees to determine the future of the Blethen media properties.
“We hope we can reach an agreement that allows us to continue the heritage of strong Maine journalism and public service to the communities served by these newspapers and to the state,” he said.
Connor, who currently owns newspapers in Pennsylvania with a group of investors not involved in this effort, has been an editor, publisher and owner of newspapers in several states throughout the country. He has always maintained a camp in the state outside of Bangor. “All of us are driven by our love of Maine and the chance to have local people and the employees of this company determine the future destiny of these newspapers in the state,” he said. "We believe in Maine and we still believe in newspapers. Maine people are great newspaper readers. When you take that appetite for news and offer people access to current local print options and the great content of the Internet sites of Blethen Maine you have a dynamic combination. These are terrific newspapers with talented people and they serve dynamic communities. And we are confident that the sum total of our backgrounds and set of skills can help continue and enhance their viability for many generations. We intend to grow this media business.”