Gannett Co. Inc. Chairman Allen H. Neuharth said yesterday the Rosslyn-based publisher of USA Today is considering bidding for The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times newspapers, which the Bingham family put up for sale earlier this month.
The Washington area apparently has no shortage of parties interested in acquiring the Louisville newspapers. In addition to Gannett, The Washington Post Co. and Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke are considering bidding.
Barry Bingham Sr., who announced his intention earlier this month to sell the Louisville newspapers and other family holdings because of a family dispute, said yesterday he received a phone call from Cooke and referred him to Goldman, Sachs & Co., the investment banker that is handling the sale for the Bingham family. Cooke said yesterday he has not decided whether to bid for the properties.
Last month, Cooke acquired the Los Angeles Daily News from Tribune Co. for $176 million and said he wants to acquire additional media properties, especially newspapers.
Neither Cooke nor any of the other interested parties has received any of the confidential financial information about the properties that would be necessary to prepare a bid, Bingham said. Bingham said Goldman was in the process of preparing information describing the family's holdings, and added that no final decision has been made about who will receive this information and be invited to submit bids.
"This is going to take some time," Bingham said yesterday.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that Neuharth, speaking at a press conference at the Economic Club of Detroit, said he has been in contact with the Bingham family and that any Gannett purchase would come only under "the friendliest of circumstances." Neuharth was in Detroit to discuss Gannett's soon-to-be-completed acquisition of The Detroit News.
In addition to the Louisville newspapers, which have a combined daily circulation in excess of 300,000, the Bingham family has said it plans to sell two Louisville radio stations, the city's CBS television affiliate and the Standard Gravure Corp. printing operations.
Newspaper analyst John Morton said yesterday he estimates the newspapers will be sold for about $300 million and the remainder of the properties for a total of $100 million. Morton said The New York Times Co., which has a chain of newspapers in the southeast, has indicated it is interested in bidding for the Louisville newspapers.
"There is some question about who they the Binghams are going to invite," Morton said. "I would certainly include New York Times Co. and possibly Times Mirror. Among other companies that we know are on the acquisition trail are Hearst and Cox Enterprises.
"I would expect them to invite Gannett and Washington Post. I am not so sure they will invite Jack Kent Cooke. I know the Binghams are very interested in known quantities. I am not saying anything against Mr. Cooke, but as far as being a newspaper operator, he is not a known quantity."