US Rep's spouse buys stake in MaineToday Media

AP News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2012 2:57 PM
US Rep's spouse buys stake in MaineToday Media

The husband of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree on Tuesday purchased a 75 percent stake in the financially struggling company that owns The Portland Press Herald and two other daily newspapers.

S. Donald Sussman's Maine Values LLC previously announced it would provide a $3.3 million loan for a 5 percent equity stake and a seat on the board of MaineToday Media. The final restructuring plan, completed Tuesday, calls for Maine Values to provide the same amount of money as a straight stock purchase.

Sussman, a hedge fund manager and philanthropist who wed Pingree last year, reiterated that he has no interest in exerting editorial control over MaineToday Media.

"As I have said all along, I have no interest in being involved in what the news professionals at the company choose to cover, or how they choose to write about it. I'm just happy that the MTM newspaper business is secure and now has a chance to grow," he said in a statement.

MaineToday Media owns and operates the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel and the Coastal Journal, in addition to The Portland Press Herald and several digital properties.

Completion of the deal with Maine Values LLC represents the first time in 14 years that the newspapers have been Maine-owned, company officials said.

The restructured deal that gives Sussman a much larger ownership stake was required by institutional investors, including out-of-state pension funds.

MTM Board of Directors Chairman Peter Brodsky said institutional investors were concerned about the company taking on more debt under the original plan. "This change will make us stronger," Brodsky said. "Maine Today Media is now on solid financial footing and poised for strong growth."

The company was purchased in 2009 by an investment group led by Richard L. Connor, with Texas-based HM Capital Partners holding the largest share, and was put up for sale as losses mounted and Connor left late last year.

The deal finalized Tuesday comes two months after investors led by former Portland Press Herald President Chris Harte and the 2100 Trust LLC agreed to a deal to become majority owner of MaineToday Media. The newspaper's biggest union rejected demands for broad concessions, and the deal fell through.

Sussman got involved after members of The Portland Newspaper Guild convinced him that the newspapers were at risk without an infusion of cash. He is the founder of the Paloma Partners hedge fund, an investment firm in Greenwich, Conn., that manages more than $1.7 billion in funds.