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Three days past sale deadline, owners of Press-Enterprise consider their options

Orange County Register

Grant Slater/KPCC

Orange County Register Publisher Aaron Kushner (left) and company President Eric Spitz. The Register's parent company, Freedom Communications Holdings, had planned to purchase the Press-Enterprise, but the deal hasn't closed yet.

It's three days past the deadline for the parent company of the Orange County Register to purchase the Riverside newspaper, The Press Enterprise, but there's still no deal

Now, the owner of the Press Enterprise, Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corp., says it is "pursuing multiple options to promptly consummate the disposition."

One option is to consider other buyers.  Another option is to take legal action against the parent company of the Orange County Register, Freedom Communications Holdings, Inc.  A third possibility would be to simply close the existing deal, selling the Press-Enterprise to Freedom at the agreed upon price of $27.25 million.

Media analyst Ken Doctor said A.H. Belo wouldn’t put out a press release like that without a strong concern that the deal wasn't going to close as planned.

"It's clear that things are going downhill pretty quickly," Doctor said on Monday. Doctor said there doesn't seem to be any public indication of a dispute on the financial value of the Press-Enterprise, so he believes the delay probably has to do with Freedom trying to raise the money to complete the deal.

The deadline for Freedom to buy the paper was originally mid-October, but that was pushed back to Nov. 15. There were also changes to the original agreement, which included Freedom paying a non-refundable $1 million deposit, which would go toward the final purchase price.

If Freedom did not purchase the Press-Enterprise on or before Nov. 15, A.H. Belo could terminate the deal, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

On Nov. 5, Freedom spokesman Eric Morgan told KPCC that the company still planned to purchase the Press-Enterprise and said "due diligence in finalizing the transaction by both parties" caused the delay beyond the original target closing date of mid-October.

On the day of the deadline, Nov. 15, Morgan said Freedom was working with A.H. Belo on finalizing the deal. Morgan did not immediately respond to KPCC's requests for comment on Monday.

Doctor told KPCC earlier this month that if the deal doesn't go through, it's possible that other media organizations, like the owners of U-T San Diego could be interested in the Press-Enterprise.

 

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