Thursday, October 16, 1997
Sale of ARN to Scripps complete
By DOUG WILLIAMSON / Abilene Reporter-News
The Abilene Reporter-News is experiencing a historic change
The Reporter-News, one of the two founding papers of Harte-Hanks
Communications Inc. more than seven decades ago, became part of
the E.W. Scripps Co on Wednesday.
The transaction was consummated when Scripps paid $700 million
in cash for the Reporter-News and five other Harte-Hanks newspapers,
along with a radio station and television station in San Antonio.
No significant changes are expected in the operation and management
of the newspaper, officials said.
"I think you can be confident there will be very few if
any significant changes initially," said Alan M. Horton,
Scripps senior vice president of newspapers.
"The paper is a good paper. It's well run by good people.
The staff is competent. The product is accepted in the marketplace.
There's no reason for us to make any significant early changes."
The sale was hailed as an all-around win-win situation.
"I believe this sale will be good for nearly all stakeholders
-- employees, shareholders and communities," said Frank Puckett,
Reporter-News publisher and president. "Harte-Hanks will
be able to concentrate on its key strategy of becoming more of
a direct-marketing company. Scripps will acquire several well-positioned
and thriving newspapers, which will complement its core business
strategy very well."
Harte-Hanks President and CEO Larry Franklin said, "The
sale of our newspapers and TV station is a key step in executing
our strategy of becoming a targeted marketing company. Harte-Hanks
now will derive 100 percent of its revenues from the direct marketing
and shopper businesses."
Puckett said readers should see little change, except for the
Harte-Hanks logo leaving and the Scripps logo entering. "The
change in ownership will be transparent to most people because
Scripps is a company that, like Harte-Hanks, believes very much
in local autonomy," said Puckett. "The people who are
in the community know best how to publish the newspaper, not someone
from a corporate office outside the marketplace."
Editor Glenn Dromgoole said he sees the move as a positive
"We will still be a locally run newspaper focusing primarily
on local and regional news," he said. "I don't see that
"Scripps puts a strong emphasis on the quality of its
newspapers, and that should be good news for our staff, our readers
and the communities we serve."
Puckett said employees should have a positive experience from
"Harte-Hanks is our history and Scripps is our future,"
Puckett said. "Both are very good companies to work for."
The Reporter-News' newest employee expressed optimism about
the change. Circulation Director Keith Petty has been on board
since Oct. 6, coming to Abilene from a newspaper in Wichita, Kan.
"Because I came from a large (newspaper) company like
Knight-Ridder, I can see some similarities with Scripps, especially
in the benefits packages and management style," he said.
"I think we will have a better newspaper because of the potential
of bringing more resources devoted to Abilene and sharing information
from a nationwide chain."
Bob Bruce has occupied a desk at the Reporter-News since 1959.
He is the longest term employee today. He said he has seen newsrooms
change, getting quieter and cleaner -- thanks to computers instead
of typewriters and smoke-free regulations.
However, the change from Harte-Hanks to Scripps was one he
didn't see coming.
"I was surprised," said Bruce, who is travel editor
and a senior staff writer in the regional news department. "I
thought (any change in ownership) would be beyond my time here."
Bruce said he is anxious to meet Scripps officials and hear
about their philosophy of newspapering.
"The Denver paper -- the Rocky Mountain News -- has gained
a lot of notoriety thanks to the JonBenet Ramsey case. I've seen
a couple of their folks on network TV. They seem to be very capable,"
Harte-Hanks shareholders will see a more cash-rich company.
The corporation, based in San Antonio, has about $192 million
in outstanding debt. It is expected to pay off part or all of
"Harte-Hanks will be able to move much more quickly to
becoming a 'pure-play' company focusing on the direct marketing
business," Puckett said. "I would not be surprised to
see them move to acquisitions very quickly. This should make them
very attractive to investors who like direct marketing."
Puckett said the newspaper's tradition of civic leadership
should not change with the new owner.
"I believe they will leave those decisions up to the local
people who manage the individual newspapers," he said.
Along with the Reporter-News, Scripps purchased the Times Record
News in Wichita Falls; the Standard-Times in San Angelo; the Caller-Times
in Corpus Christi; the Star Courier in Plano; the Independent-Mail
in Anderson, S.C.; KENS-TV and KENS Radio, both in San Antonio.
Also on Wedneday, Scripps traded the radio and television stations
to A.H. Belo Corp. for $75 million in cash and 56 percent ownership
of the TV Food Network -- a culinary cable channel.
Transfer of the KENS broadcast licenses to Belo is subject
to government approval.
With the transactions, Scripps becomes the 10th largest American
newspaper organization. Circulation of Scripps' 20 newspapers
is 1.41 million daily and 1.63 million Sundays.
Its newspapers are in Albuquerque, N.M.; Birmingham, Ala.;
Cincinnati, Ohio; Memphis and Knoxville, Tenn; Denver and Boulder,
Colo.; Evansville, Ind.; Naples and Stuart, Fla; Redding, Ventura
County and Vero Beach, Calif.; and Bremerton, Wash.
Scripps also owns United Media, a licensor and syndicator of
news features and comics, including Dilbert; Cinetel Productions,
a creator of programming primarily for cable TV networks; Scripps
Howard Productions, a creator of programming primarily for broadcast
TV network; and the Scripps Howard News Service. The acquisition
also adds 1,600 employees to Scripps' 6,800-person workforce.
Scripps' acquisition of Harte-Hanks properties is among a group
of transactions in the past two years totaling more than $2.5
billion. It sold its cable-TV distribution system in 1996 to Comcast
Corp. and recently swapped newspapers in Monterey, Calif., and
San Luis Obispo, Calif., for the Boulder Daily Camera in Colorado.
Scripps, like Harte-Hanks, has deep roots in the newspaper
industry. The company was begun in 1878 when 24-year-old Edward
Willis Scripps started the Cleveland Penny Press with $10,000
he borrowed from family members. The newspaper, named for its
affordable price, was aimed at an emerging mass audience of urban
Scripps took the formula to dozens of other cities, building
the first chain of newspapers under common ownership. Scripps
stock closed at 41 5/8, down 1 3/8, and Harte-Hanks ended the
day at 37 3/8, down 1/2.
(Also contributing to this story was Deborah W. Fisher of the
E.W. Scripps News Service.)
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