The New York Times Co. is not a bidder for The Evening News Association of Detroit as reported in yesterday's Business section. Two sources involved in the sale of the ENA had erroneously identified The New York Times Co. as an active participant in negotiations Wednesday with the ENA board of directors.
Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, Rosslyn-based Gannett Co. Inc., and The New York Times Co. expressed interest in acquiring The Evening News Association yesterday in presentations made to ENA's board of directors in Detroit, sources said.
ENA, the closely held media company that owns newspapers, including The Detroit News, and television stations, including Washington's WDVM-TV, Channel 9, late yesterday had no comment on the outcome of the board meeting.
While observers in Detroit, Washington and New York waited anxiously yesterday to find out what decision ENA's directors had made, ENA said only that it might issue a statement after 10 this morning.
Cooke, Gannett -- publisher of 86 daily newspapers -- and The New York Times probably made proposals yesterday that were in the form of a range of value they might pay for ENA, said Porter Bibb, an investment banker with Ladenburg, Thalman. Bibb said he did not believe the parties made binding proposals.
Bibb, who is advising a group of dissident shareholders interested in selling their shares to the highest bidder, said he believed that all three told the directors that they would pay in excess of $1,250 a share, or $566.3 million, for the company.
The $1,250-a-share figure is significant because that is the value of a hostile takeover bid submitted by producers Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio.
ENA has urged its shareholders to reject Lear and Perenchio's bid, while promising to hasten its efforts to find a more attractive alternative that will maximize value for its 330 shareholders.
It is likely that ENA will announce its plan today, since the hostile takeover bid is scheduled to expire on Friday.
If ENA fails to announce an alternative that is more attractive than Lear and Perenchio's buyout proposal, it is possible that many shareholders will tender their shares to the producers, despite management's efforts to encourage them to reject that proposal. Depending on what ENA announces, Lear and Perenchio could increase their offer and extend it beyond Friday. They already have increased the offer once, from $1,000 a share to $1,250.
The battle for control of ENA is part of a barrage of takeovers that is blasting through the media industry this year, as bidders pay record prices for newspapers and television stations.
ENA repurchased some shares from stockholders last December for $250 a share; this week, only eight months later, Goldman, Sachs & Co. has been offering ENA stockholders more than $1,300 a share on behalf of unknown buyers.
The dramatic increase in the price bidders currently are willing to pay for media properties is one of the key reasons why many ENA shareholders are anxious to sell the company now. After years of owning a stock that traded infrequently and paid a small dividend, they are anxious to sell while the media market is hot.
Ralph Booth, a major shareholder who considered making a buyout bid for ENA until the price of shares skyrocketed, said last night that he thinks the sale of the company has been complicated by the presence of the number of serious bidders.
Booth said he believes a behind-the-scenes bidding war has broken out, as the pressure on ENA to make a decision continues to grow.
In addition to The Detroit News and WDVM-TV, ENA owns television stations in Tuscon, Mobile, Ala., and Austin, Tex; radio stations in Detroit, and smaller newspapers in California and New Jersey.
The News, a newspaper with daily circulation of about 667,000, is engaged in a fierce battle in Detroit for readers and advertisers, holding a 20,000-paper daily edge over The Detroit Free Press, its Knight-Ridder-owned rival.
Both newspapers have been losing millions of dollars for several years as they cut advertising and circulation rates and improved their news operations.