Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Who should be back in town Wednesday night in a week that Washington Star owner Joe L. Allbritton had his name removed as publisher from the paper's editorial page masthead - raising speculation about his future there - but John P. McGoff, his strongest rival two and a half years ago to buy The Star.
McGoff, the conservative Michigan publisher, showed up last night within the shadow of The Star's Southeast Washington headquarters at a party on Capitol Hill held in an empty townhouse and given by the Washington bureau of his newspaper chain.
McGoff stood by the front door, greeting everyone heartily and answering dozens of questions, mainly, "Is it just a coincidence you are here today?"
"No, I'm not here to buy The Star," said McGoff, who in 1974 offered to buy only the newspaper and not the Star's broadcast holdings for $25 million. "I'm here because I like Washington. I think Joe Allbritton has done a splendid job."
But pressed later, McGoff said if The Star became available, "I would think about it." He then added, "Yes, I would look into it. Yes I would."
Overtly, the purpose of the McGoff gathering was for the publisher, whose newspaper chain includes more than 50 papers, to meet "some new people in town," and the guests included both of Michigan's senators, Robert Griffin (R) and Donald Riegle Jr. (D), a handful of other congressmen and Daniel Minchew, chairman of the International Trade Commission.
Though his corporate vice president described the trip as an "acquisition trip," McGoff said it had been planned for "at least 45 days" and was not prompted by Allbritton's still-unexplained masthead deletion or his request to change the call letters of The Star's Washington television station. WMAL-TV to his own initials, WJLA. McGoff said he was leaving for New York this morning.
Asked if The Star was on any acquisition agenda, Frank Shepherd, executive vice president of McGoff's corporation, said, "not today."
Among the guests was John Kauffmann, whose family owned The Star for over 100 years and who turned down purchase offers from Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch and McGoff in favor of Allbritton.
Kauffmann said he didn't know anything about the Texas publisher's plans. He speculated that if the paper became available again he would advise McGoff to bid for it. "From a strict financial point of view, I would sell the paper. But from a power and ego viewpoint, the paper has more influence. There's nothing like the joy of being a publisher of a newspaper in the nation's capital."