The Houston Post, the largest-circulation morning newspaper in Texas but the second-largest daily in its own city, announced yesterday that it is for sale.
In an announcement read yesterday afternoon to the newspaper staff by Managing Editor Kuyk Logan, the Hobby family corporation that owns the newspaper said tax considerations and "the changing interests of the shareholders" are responsible for the decision to sell.
The announcement that the newspaper, in the generally prosperous Houston market, is for sale caught Post employes by surprise and prompted speculation that several news organizations, including the A.H. Belo Corp., publisher of The Dallas Morning News, and The Washington Post Company, might be interested in the daily.
Newspaper analyst John Morton of Lynch, Jones & Ryan, estimated The Houston Post's 1982 revenues at $160 million and noted that the newspaper has slipped somewhat in recent years in circulation and advertising lineage. Recently, "it's been at best marginally profitable" he said, blaming the recession in part.
"It's very hard to tell without looking at the books, but I think probably $175 million to $225 million" is the range in which the newspaper might sell, he said.
The newspaper is privately held. It is owned by H&C Communications Inc. H&C is owned by the Hobby and Catto families, which include Oveta Culp Hobby of Houston, chairman of the boards of H&C and The Houston Post. She headed the Women's Army Corp during World War II, was the first secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Eisenhower and is the widow of former Texas governor William P. Hobby.
Her son, Texas Lt. Gov. William P. Hobby, is the president of H&C and The Houston Post. Her daughter, Jessica Hobby Catto, is vice president of H&C and The Houston Post and publisher of the separately owned Washington Journalism Review.
Although the announcement of the sale did not spell out the tax problems to which the announcement alluded, Morton said that they might include potential estate taxes on the valuable property. Such taxes have resulted in the sale of other daily newspapers, he said.
Bidding on the paper will be handled by Lehman Grothers, Kuhn, Loeb, and the sale is "subject to receipt of an acceptable price," the announcement said. The company said that none of its broadcast properties are for sale.
Morton, noting that Houston is "still a rapidly growing market," said he expects a fair degree of interest in the sale.
A number of staffers, including managing editor Logan, said the announcement was a surprise. "It was the last thing anybody expected," said reporter Juan R. Palomo.