Ingersoll Publications, a Connecticut-based newspaper chain, has made an offer of about $123 million to acquire The Des Moines Register and Tribune Co., sources said yesterday.
The Ingersoll offer exceeds a $112 million bid for the company made earlier this month by Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and several businessmen, including two former Dow Jones employes who are directors and employes of the Register and Tribune.
Ingersoll owns 24 daily and approximately 50 weekly newspapers. The largest newspaper in the chain is The Trentonian, a daily tabloid in Trenton, N.J., with a circulation of about 68,000.
Investment bankers in New York and sources in Des Moines said they believe at least one other offer for the company will be delivered soon to Register & Tribune Co. Chairman David Kruidenier.
Kruidenier was in New York this week. Some sources said he was looking for a white knight, or friendly suitor, for the company, but others disagreed, pointing out that the best way to maximize shareholder value, if the company is sold, is through a competitive bidding process, also known as a controlled auction.
Neither Kruidenier nor officials at Ingersoll returned calls yesterday. Kruidenier was quoted in Sunday's Des Moines Register as saying he received a second bid for the company that is higher than the Dow Jones offer.
Rumors that a bidding war among major media companies is about to begin increased in New York and Des Moines yesterday following a report of Ingersoll's bid in The Wall Street Journal yesterday.
Most of the stock of the Register & Tribune Co., publisher of the Des Moines Register newspaper, and Cowles Media Co., publisher of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, is owned by members of the Cowles family. Kruidenier is chairman of both companies.
Sources said at least one bidder is considering making offers for both The Register & Tribune Co. and for a 17 percent stake in Cowles Media Co. owned by Kinglsey H. Murphy, a Cowles Media director who has said he wants to sell his stock in the company.
Since The Register & Tribune Co. owns 14.3 percent of Cowles Media, this strategy would give a successful bidder 31.3 percent of Cowles Media, which might be used as a springboard to acquire the company.
Kruidenier has said Cowles Media is not for sale. He also has said there will be no decision on the Dow Jones offer until First Boston Corp., the Register and Tribune Co.'s investment banker, renders its opinion next month on the offer's fairness.
Kruidenier has criticized the Dow Jones offer and placed two members of the Dow Jones investor group, Register and Tribune Co. President Michael Gartner and Register Publisher Garly Gerlach, on paid leaves of absence.