Publishing company selling Oklahoman newspaper

AP News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2011 7:39 PM
Publishing company selling Oklahoman newspaper

The company that has owned The Oklahoman since it was founded more than a century ago is selling the newspaper, a luxury hotel in Colorado and other businesses to a corporation owned by a Denver businessman.

The Anschutz Corp. will buy The Oklahoma Publishing Co. and a broad variety of assets next month, said Christy Everest, the third member of the Gaylord family to run the publishing company. Everest's grandfather Edward K. Gaylord founded the paper with Ray Dickinson in 1903 _ four years before Oklahoma became a state.

Everest said Philip Anschutz approached the publishing company in June with a "unique offer" to its 254 shareholders. He met for about 15 minutes Thursday morning with 250 or so employees in Oklahoma City and afterward Gary Pierson, the company's chief operating officer who will become its president and CEO, called it "a nice meeting."

"Everybody seems very accepting and excited about what the future may hold," Pierson said.

No sale price was announced. Everest said that, during negotiations, it became clear Anschutz intended to be a strong supporter of Oklahoma.

"This transaction will not cause OPUBCO to disappear _ rather, only the ownership will change. There are amazing similarities between the interests and conservative values of The Anschutz Corporation and those of OPUBCO," Everest said in a statement.

The Oklahoman has a current daily circulation of 143,803 and 201,875 on Sundays, down from 221,595 daily and 326,284 on Sundays in 1992.

The newspaper reported on its website that it will operate independently from any other newspapers owned by The Anschutz Corp., including the San Francisco Examiner. Employees will maintain their normal responsibilities, The Oklahoman said.

Jim Monaghan, a spokesman for Anschutz, declined comment on the transaction. The Oklahoman quoted Anschutz in a statement as saying he is "very pleased with this transaction and my new affiliation with the OPUBCO business and their respective communities."

Dean Joe Foot of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma _ named for the family that founded the Oklahoman that has donated millions of dollars to the school _ said family-owned newspapers are rare in a time of expanding corporate ownership.

"It's difficult to keep these family owned newspapers together over generations," Foote said.

In June, longtime Editor Ed Kelley left the Oklahoman to become the new editor of The Washington Times and Publisher David Thompson announced his retirement, effective Sept. 1. Kelley had been at The Oklahoman more than 35 years and served three years as the paper's Washington bureau chief. Thompson had been at the paper since 1974.

Neither Kelley nor Thompson returned telephone calls seeking comment Thursday.

The sale to The Anschutz Corp. includes the newspaper, the NewsOK.com website, its headquarters building in Oklahoma City, printing facilities and real estate holdings and businesses across the nation. Properties include The Broadmoor, a luxury hotel and resort in Colorado Springs, Colo.; the Manitou & Pike's Peak Railway Company, the world's highest railway that travels to the top of Pike's Peak; and Pavestone LLC of Dallas, which manufactures concrete pavers, retaining walls and other landscaping materials and has manufacturing plants in 18 cities.

The newspaper said all the management team at The Broadmoor will be retained, including President and CEO Steve Bartolin. The hotel will not become part of any other hotel operations or chains and will not be given a different name than it has had since it opened in 1918.

Doug Price, CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, told The Gazette of Colorado Springs he expects Anschutz to keep the hotel rather than spin it off.

"I think probably the most important part is that it's going to remain independent," Price said.