April 23, 1997 in Nation/World

Cable TV Giant Buys Newspapers $627 Million Deal Includes 3 Inland Northwest Papers

Eric Torbenson Staff writer
 

The nation’s largest cable television company got into the newspaper business Tuesday as TeleCommunications Inc. of Denver bought out the Kearns-Tribune Corp. of Salt Lake City and its five papers.

Along with the flagship Salt Lake Tribune, the $627 million stock buyout includes the Lewiston Morning Tribune, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and the Whitman County Gazette of Colfax, Wash. The Sparks Tribune of Sparks, Nev., also is part of the deal.

TCI, which recently bought out Cox Cable systems of Spokane, was looking to find some “synergy” between its cable operations and the future of news delivery, said Joann Dobbs, corporate spokeswoman for TCI. The company wanted a venue to try concepts in electronic publishing.

“It’s an interesting opportunity for us,” Dobbs said. “We do intend to explore some different areas with the papers.”

The Lewiston Tribune and the Salt Lake Tribune were among the earliest newspapers to offer an on-line version of their product, said Butch Alford, publisher and editor of the Lewiston Morning Tribune.

No changes in staffing or content are planned, and it remains too early to envision what market experiments TCI may have in mind, both Alford and Dobbs said Tuesday.

The management of the papers involved will remain the same.

Alford said reaction about the loss of family ownership of the Lewiston Tribune hadn’t reached his desk. The merger would further the national trend of corporate buyouts of a dwindling number of family-owned newspaper companies.

Kearns-Tribune Corp. shareholders, descendants of mining magnate Thomas Kearns, will receive TCI stock if they approve the deal.

For TCI, it will be their first foray into newspapers, Dobbs said. The papers offer urban and rural markets to try different ways to deliver news to people.

Many newspaper trend watchers believe the ink-on-newsprint version of the product will face increasingly significant competition by electronic information sources.

For Kearns-Tribune, the move gives the papers a very strong media partner for the next century, according to Dominic Welch, president of Kearns-Tribune and publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Though TCI would own the papers, it has contracted the management and operation duties of the papers to a new entity, Salt Lake Tribune Publishing Co., made up of managers and current owners of the papers.

Under the agreement, if TCI decides to sell the papers, the owners of the new management company will have first rights to buy them.

“There will be no changes in personnel, editorial policies, philosophical direction or day-to-day operations because of the merger,” Welch said in a statement.

TCI will pay for the acquisition with its own common stock and Series A stock, as well as shares of its Liberty Media programming arm.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHO GETS WHAT Tele-Communications Inc. gets: The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s largest daily newspaper with a Sunday circulation of 163,112 The Lewiston Morning Tribune, with a Sunday circulation of 27,500 The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, with a circulation of 8,200 The weekly Whitman County Gazette, circulation 4,000 The Sparks, Nev., Tribune Tribune Solutions of Salt Lake City, a software development company Part-ownership of a newsprint mill in Usk, Wash.

Kearns-Tribune shareholders receive $627 million in TCI stock.

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHO GETS WHAT Tele-Communications Inc. gets: The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s largest daily newspaper with a Sunday circulation of 163,112 The Lewiston Morning Tribune, with a Sunday circulation of 27,500 The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, with a circulation of 8,200 The weekly Whitman County Gazette, circulation 4,000 The Sparks, Nev., Tribune Tribune Solutions of Salt Lake City, a software development company Part-ownership of a newsprint mill in Usk, Wash.

Kearns-Tribune shareholders receive $627 million in TCI stock.


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