There was no evidence of a prospective purchaser of the Washington Washington Star yesterday and little likelihood that a new newspaper would be started to replace the city's afternoon daily if it shuts down two weeks from today.
Officers of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, the union that represents editorial and commercial employes of The Star, began a study of possible acquisition of the newspaper by a combination of Star employes and area business interests.
Raymond Dick, a representative of the union, said "we have to get some facts and figures together . . . but we are very serious about it."
Attorney R. Robert Linowes, a former president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, confirmed that the guild had asked him to help determine whether local investors and union members could be organized to buy the paper from Time Inc.
Conservative publisher Richard Viguerie said that he is convinced that the Star will be purchased by a new owner or owners or that another newspaper would be started here. Viguerie, who operates a direct-mail firm and publishes Conservative Digest, said "at least one prominent person very much capable of involving himself in this matter" had talked with Viguerie yesterday.
But newspaper industry leaders and analysts held out little hope that Washington would have two daily newspapers if Time closes the Star on Aug. 7. Time president Richard Munro told a news conference that while there has been some discussion with other firms about buying the Star, there have been no "serious" inquiries from people "who had the resources."
At the same time, there was a consensus that Time had decided to continue publishing for another two weeks as part of an effort to attract a buyer. One publishing executive estimated that Time would spend up to $3 million to keep the Star going for the two weeks.
Newspaper industry analyst John Morton, of the John Muir & Co. investment firm, said he does not know of "any newspaper company that would want to buy the Star or to start a new paper here" because of the "solidly-entrenched Washington Post position."
Gannett Newspapers Chairman Allen Neuharth, whose company operates the largest chain of newspapers in the country, said "it is unlikely that a major publishing firm would buy the Star."
Neuharth said in an interview yesterday that "we made the judgment that the economic facts of life in this market are such that the dominance of The Washington Post would continue, that a second paper, no matter how good, would be unable to survive economically."
Another potential publisher of a new Washington daily is the Army Times Publishing Co., owner of the five suburban Journal newspapers here that circulate twice weekly with a paid circulation of 127,000 and a modern printing plant in Northern Virginia.
Journal publisher Geoffrey Edwards said, however, that his company has no plans to fill the void if The Star closes.
Also mentioned as having a possible interest in Washington are Rupert Murdoch, owner of The New York Post, London Times and major dailies in Australia; Vere Harmsworth, whose Associated Newspaper Group of London publishes the Daily Mail and New Standard (London's one evening paper), and Pierre Peladeau, head of a Canadian publishing firm that has started a new daily tabloid newspaper in Philadelphia.
Neither Harmsworth nor Murdoch could be contacted last night. Peladeau, head of Quebecor of Montreal, said "I think there's room for a tabloid" in Washington, such as his sports-oriented Philadelphia Journal.
But "as of today" or this year, the Canadian publisher said he would not want to enter this market because the Philadelphia paper is still in its early stages.
James Batten, senior vice president of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, said "I don't think there is any prospect" of his firm entering the Washington market.