New Rumors of a Merger Between Freedom and MediaNews

Yesterday, Dean Singleton, the controversial chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group, which owns dozens of newspapers including the Denver Post and LA Daily News, announced he was stepping down from his longtime post. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, two new members of the board of directors that will run Singleton's company also work for Alden Global Capital, which is part owner of Freedom Communications. "An insider told WSJ that the company . . . is thinking merger," the paper reports today.

As the WSJ noted, "MediaNews owns nine newspapers in Southern California, some of which already have a working relationship with [The Orange County Register. According to WSJ's inside source, Alden Global Capital "wants to roll at least some of its various newspaper holdings into a single company."

That working relationship was first reported by the Weekly back in February 2008, when sources at the Register claimed their newspaper would soon be sharing content with MediaNews Group in an effort to streamline coverage and cut costs. Although some staffers worried this could be a first step toward a merger with a company--Singleton's--that had a bad reputation for things such as taking over newspapers, firing the staff, and then rehiring people at lower pay that same day--Register management denied any such move was being discussed.

In any case, the content-sharing scheme failed to prevent the Register from going bankrupt in September 2009, and last April, the Hoiles family, which had owned the paper since its inception in 1935, sold out to Alden Global Capital. Indeed, the bulk of the Reggie's financial troubles (aside from the general demise of the print media) dated to 2004, when Freedom had to borrow $1 million from two investment firms in order to buy out several Hoiles family members who wanted to leave the newspaper biz.

The Register's story on the Hoiles sell-out to Alden was rather optimistically titled "Freedom Communications Exits Bankruptcy." The paper has yet to respond to today's WSJ report, but we'll be checking the website for a suitably happy headline if and when that does happen, so stay tuned.


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