Black on buy: 'A leap of faith'
This letter from David Black, chairman of Black Press Ltd., appeared on the editorial page of today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin:
"When my late wife, Annabeth, and I came to Hawaii in 2000 looking at acquiring the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek, we knew we had come to a special community and personally learned about the magic of aloha.
"Frankly, partly through a 'leap of faith,' and with the help of a half-dozen local families (including the Case, Kurisu, Johnson, Tokioka, Wo and Watanabe ohanas), we took that 'leap' and bought the papers.
"From the outset the tough advertising market and strong competition from all media drove losses which were initially sustainable. In the past few years, with the additional, dramatic downturn in the economy, it became increasingly clear that the Star-Bulletin was not economically viable and could not be sustained, despite the hard work of our employees and the support of the community.
"Unfortunately, our community can no longer support two daily newspapers. Even significant operating cost cuts could not stem the financial bleeding.
"A year or so ago, we began searching for possible solutions, including closing our door or purchasing the Advertiser. Closing would mean cutting our losses and pulling out; purchasing the Advertiser would mean an additional, major investment in Hawaii.
"As believers in Hawaii, despite taking on additional financial risk, we felt a rational market consolidation was warranted.
"As an enterprise which has sustained significant financial losses, we approached the United States Justice Department to find out what would be required to legally acquire the Advertiser. After verifying our financial and competitive situation, the Justice Department agreed that we qualified as a 'failing company,' providing an antitrust exemption which would allow us to acquire the Advertiser. A condition precedent is a good-faith effort to sell the Star-Bulletin, to which we have agreed.
"We approached Gannett Co., owner of the Advertiser. After lengthy discussions, an agreement was reached.
"The consolidation will allow the combined Star-Bulletin and Advertiser to become a more stable enterprise which can better compete with today's media world of the Internet, television, print and other platforms and provide stability to our employees and customers.
"When we purchased the Star-Bulletin in 2001, we heard the need for our community to maintain two editorial voices. We remain committed to that. We plan to independently preserve editorial voices from the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin, even if in one newspaper.
"Finally, we are committed to using the market consolidation to improve the quality of news delivered in our community.
"Many details remain to be worked out. We don't yet have all of the answers. We do know that after all is said and done, Oahu will have one good, healthy and stable daily newspaper of general circulation with local owners and a commitment to our community.
"With this second 'leap of faith,' we reaffirm our commitment to Hawaii, our readers and our customers."