Almost a year after selling his family's Sun-Times to Australian press baron Rupert Murdoch, Marshall Field V is re-entering the competitive Chicago newspaper market by purchasing a chain of suburban weeklies from Time Inc.
The sale also marks the end of Time Inc.'s participation in the newspaper business, a company spokesman said.
The multibillion-dollar media congolomerate, which owns a variety of magazines and cable television properties, said yesterday that it had agreed to sell its Pioneer Press subsidiary to The Field Corp. for an undisclosed sum.
Sources close to the transaction said the purchase price would be "between $25 million and $30 million."
The sale, which is being handled by Salomon Bros., had been expected for several months. Several media companies, including Knight-Ridder Inc. and Gannet Co., reportedly had bid for Pioneer Press.
The chain of 30 weekly newspapers has a combined circulation of 160,000 in Chicago's affluent northern suburbs. Time has owned Pioneer Press since 1969.
"It's a very good little operation," said the Time Inc. spokesman, "but it's a local media business. We are a national information and entertainment company, so Pioneer Press was not a logical fit for this company anymore.
"We've looked at newspapers at various times," the spokesman said, "but except for the unfortunately brief period we owned The Washington Star, Pioneer Press has really been the only newspaper we owned."
Time purchased The Star from financier Joseph Allbritton in 1978 for $28 million. However, the company was unable to turn the money-losing publication around and, after spending $85 million, folded the paper in 1981.
For Field, the acquisition represents a suburban base to compete against the powerful Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times in Chicago's lucrative North Shore market. A Field Corp. spokesman said, however, that "there are no present plans to go daily."
Field Enterprises sold the Sun-Times to Murdoch last November for $90 million in cash. The widely criticized sale came partly as a result of a dispute between Marshall and his half-brother Frederick over how the assets of the jointly owned company should be divided.
Marshall Field formed The Field Corp. in June to acquire media properties. The firm also runs a newspaper in Manistiqua, Mich.