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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 18, 2010

3 show interest in Star-Bulletin, so far

BY Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

The owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin has received inquiries from three potential suitors for the state's No. 2 newspaper.

Owner David Black officially put the 117-year-old Star-Bulletin, its Web site and its Kāne'ohe printing facility up for sale on Monday to make way for his purchase of The Honolulu Advertiser.

Dennis Francis, the Star-Bulletin's publisher, confirmed the interest in the Star-Bulletin, but said he didn't know the investors' identities because the sale is being handled by Black's office in Canada.

Francis said he was surprised by the response given the losses suffered by the newspaper.

He said the Star-Bulletin has lost more than $100 million or more than $40,000 a day since Black took over the newspaper nine years ago.

The potential investors do not include local car dealer Mike McKenna, who has decided against bidding on the newspaper after earlier expressing an interest.

McKenna, 76, said he's winding down his business interest and is in the midst of selling his Ford dealership in Kailua.

The U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division is requiring Black, who is from British Columbia, to make a good faith effort to sell the Star-Bulletin so he can buy The Advertiser, the state's largest newspaper, and its $82 million printing press in Kapolei.

If Black is unable to sell the money-losing Star-Bulletin, he will merge it with The Advertiser, leaving O'ahu with only one daily paper. The merger would result in hundreds of layoffs as the staffs of the two companies are combined.

The 600 Advertiser employees were given a letter on March 9 stating that most employees will be terminated when the sale closes. They will be offered temporary employment with a management company to continue to put out The Advertiser until the new owner has time to take over the operation.

Black will list the Star-Bulletin for sale until March 29 in advertisements in local, national and trade publications. He also is contacting local investors and many larger newspaper operators.

Prospective buyers have until April 5 to submit a bid for the newspaper.

In an interview with The Advertiser last month, Black expressed doubts that he will find a buyer for the Star-Bulletin.

In addition to its losses, the Star-Bulletin, with a daily circulation of about 55,000, is a much smaller newspaper than The Advertiser, which has a daily circulation of about 130,000.

The sale of the Star-Bulletin does not include its profitable sister publication, MidWeek, which Black intends to keep.