Barry Bingham Sr., unable to resolve a family dispute, yesterday put his family's Louisville newspapers, broadcast stations and printing company up for sale.
His son, Barry Bingham Jr., editor and publisher of The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times newspapers, immediately resigned, calling his father's decision "irrational and ill-advised." The younger Bingham also said his father's move was a "betrayal of the traditions and principles I have tried to perpetuate" that "fails to meet any standards of fairness I can comprehend."
The elder Bingham, 79, said the companies have retained the investment banking firm of Goldman, Sachs & Co. to solicit purchase offers. Several major newspaper companies are likely to bid for the media and printing properties, owned by the family since the early 1920s and which investment bankers believe are worth about $450 million.
The surprise announcement yesterday followed an unsuccessful attempt to divide the family's holdings among the elder Bingham's three children. One of them, Sallie Bingham, who owns between 4 percent and 5 percent of the voting stock and between 13 percent and 18 percent of the total shares, has said for months that she wants to sell out because of uncertainty about the future management of the companies.
Sallie Bingham was a director of the companies until March 1984, when she, along with her mother, sister and sister-in-law, were replaced by "members with business experience and expertise not available to family members," Barry Bingham Sr. said last year.
Paul Janensch, executive editor of the newspapers, said a settement between the children had recently been discussed, in which Barry Bingham Jr. would take control of the newspapers and printing operations and his sister, Eleanor Bingham, would control the family's two Louisville radio stations and a CBS television affiliate. But Janensch said the family could not reach a final agreement.
"I was very saddened by the announcement today, and the news employes were stunned," Janensch said.
"We've been through a long period of anxiety and uncertainty that concluded with the merger on Dec. 1 of the two news operations," said Leonard Pardue, senior managing editor of the Louisville newspapers. "And now, six weeks later, this occurs and increases the uncertainty and anxiety. People are distressed, but they are professionals and we'll keep the flame burning."
Possible bidders include The Washington Post Co., The New York Times Co., Gannett Co. Inc., Knight-Ridder Newspapers Inc. Times Mirror Co., Chicago's Tribune Co., Capital Cities/ABC Inc., A. H. Belo Corp., The San Francisco Chronicle Publishing Co. and Affiliated Publications Inc.