Freedom Communications said Wednesday that it has finalized an agreement to sell the East Valley Tribune in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa to a company that owns free papers in Tucson, Ariz., and Telluride, Colo.
The deal between Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom and Boulder, Colo.-based Thirteenth Street Media still needs approval of a bankruptcy judge. Freedom put the Tribune up for sale shortly after the company filed for bankruptcy protection in September and said earlier this month it couldn't find a buyer and would close it at the end of the year.
Publisher Julie Moreno said last week that a buyer had emerged that would keep the paper open, but did not name the company.
Thirteenth Street president Randy Miller owns the Explorer, a 50,000-circulation free-distribution weekly covering suburban north Tucson, and the Telluride Daily Planet, a free-distribution daily.
Miller said the East Valley Tribune, like the Explorer, would focus on "being the essential source of local news and advertising."
The Explorer is printed by the East Valley Tribune. Beyond that synergy, Miller said the acquisition is a good fit because both papers share a free-circulation business model and a similar approach to suburban coverage.
Miller said he expects to retain "a substantial number" of East Valley Tribune employees.
The Sun City Daily News-Sun and the Ahwatukee Foothills News, two Freedom-owned papers the California company plans to continue, aren't part of the proposed sale.
The Tribune won a Pulitzer earlier this year in local reporting for a series of stories about how Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigations of other crimes.
Freedom operates 33 daily and 77 weekly newspapers, including the Orange County (Calif.) Register and two dailies in Arizona, the Daily Sun-News in Sun City and The Sun in Yuma.
Information from: East Valley Tribune, http://www.eastvalleytribune.com