Buyer for Seattle Daily Looks Unlikely

A recession and a downturn in the newspaper business will make it tough to find a buyer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The managing director of the company hired to sell the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says it will do the best job it can – but industry analysts are skeptical a buyer will materialize.

The Hearst Corp. has hired newspaper industry investment bankers Broadwater & Associates of New York to seek a buyer for the state’s oldest newspaper.

In an interview Friday, managing director Bob Broadwater told reporters from the P-I, “It’s clear that right now the overall marketplace for media is very challenging. The financing climate is very bad, and there have not been a lot of transactions recently.”

Broadwater would not comment when asked if he was optimistic about the company’s chances of selling the paper.

But, he added, “We’ve been hired to sell it, and that’s what we’re going to do. We intend to do the very best job we can.”

Hearst put the Post-Intelligencer up for sale Friday and said that if it can’t find a buyer in the next 60 days, the paper would likely close or exist only online.

“The odds of finding someone to buy a newspaper in this time are very, very low,” said Stephen Lacy, a professor of communications and journalism at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

He said the economy and the Internet combine to make this potentially the most difficult time in history for newspapers. Lacy predicted only one newspaper could survive in Seattle, probably the one with the bigger circulation because it’s the most effective buy for advertisers.

The P-I, which was founded as the Seattle Gazette in 1863, has a weekday circulation of 117,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Seattle Times, Seattle’s other daily newspaper, has a circulation of about 199,000.

Hearst has owned the P-I since 1921, and the paper has had operating losses since 2000, including a loss of $14 million last year.

Other newspapers in stronger market positions than the P-I have found it difficult to find buyers, said Rick Edmonds, media business analyst with the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank.

Under a 1983 joint operating agreement, the Times and the P-I have competing news operations, but the Times runs the business operations of both papers, including advertising sales.

Kathy George, attorney for the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town, said the group, which was formed during a four-year legal battle between the owners of Seattle’s two daily newspapers, was already talking about helping to find a buyer for the P-I. She said a public-spirited local buyer and employee ownership were both possibilities.

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