Daily Breeze sold to Hearst

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TORRANCE, Calif. -- Copley Press Inc. said Friday it sold the Daily Breeze and three weekly newspapers to Hearst Corp. in a deal that will eventually transfer ownership of the Los Angeles-area paper to Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc.

MediaNews, which also owns the Daily News of Los Angeles and other area papers, will run the Breeze while a sale of the papers from Hearst is pending, MediaNews said Friday.

Financial details were not disclosed. But in court documents filed earlier this month, the purchase price was estimated at $25 million for a deal that includes the Palos Verdes Peninsula News, The Beach Reporter and More San Pedro.

"We are delighted to acquire these fine newspapers and expand our reach in the exciting media market of Los Angeles," said William Dean Singleton, chief executive of MediaNews. "The Daily Breeze and its sister weekly newspapers are a wonderful addition to the Los Angeles Newspaper Group."

The Breeze, which has a paid circulation market share of about 3.5 percent in the Los Angeles area, has an average daily circulation of 70,076 and 284 employees.

Publisher Art Wible announced his retirement in conjunction with the sale. Liz Gaier, business development chief at MediaNews for the past five years and a former Breeze sales representative, was named as his successor.

Gaier told a staff meeting there were no current plans for cuts, but that the new management would be meeting with department heads in coming weeks to discuss staffing.

"I am a lot less stressed today than I was yesterday," said Larry Altman, 43, a crime reporter who has worked at the Breeze for 16 years.

"It sounds good as I'm listening to it but I guess it will all come out in time, what it really means," said John Bogert, a news columnist.

The building that houses the Breeze is being put up for sale separately. MediaNews plans to keep the paper in its current location under a short-term lease with Copley.

The purchase of the Daily Breeze will give MediaNews a stronger foothold in the Los Angeles area. The company's newspapers cover many Southern California suburbs, and its largest holding, the Daily News of Los Angeles, competes against the Los Angeles Times.

Singleton has used a similar approach around the San Francisco Bay area, where he runs the Oakland Tribune and other suburban newspapers that vie for readership against the San Francisco Chronicle.

Copley, parent company of the San Diego Union-Tribune, said in June it wanted to sell its Los Angeles Newspapers, citing competitive pressures in the market.

The complex deal involving New York-based Hearst and MediaNews Group was documented in court filings earlier this month as part of a federal antitrust case targeting their plans to consolidate some business operations of their Bay Area newspapers.

A San Francisco investor is trying to block the consolidation, claiming such cooperation violates antitrust laws.

In the filing in San Francisco, the media companies disclosed plans for Hearst to purchase the Daily Breeze from Copley and then sell it to MediaNews along with two other publications, the Monterey County (Calif.) Herald and the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press.

The Daily Breeze is one of 20 newspapers published by Copley, which is based in San Diego.

Copley is the sixth-largest private family owned newspaper group in the United States and is the 19th largest newspaper group in the country. Copley also said earlier this year it was exploring the possible sale of its seven newspapers in Ohio and Illinois but intends to retain the Union-Tribune.

The company also operates Copley News Service, which provides news, commentary and features from bureaus in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and Mexico City, as well as in Sacramento and the state capitals of Ohio and Illinois.

The news service shared a Pulitzer Prize in April with the Union-Tribune for exposing the bribery scandal that brought down then-U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

The company that became The Copley Press was started in 1905 in Illinois by Col. Ira C. Copley. He expanded to California in 1928. Helen Copley ran the company from 1973 until her retirement in 2001 and her son, David C. Copley, succeeded her.

Founded by political activist and retired pharmacist S.D. "Doc" Barkley, the Torrance paper began as a weekly in 1894 known as The Breeze. It covered several Los Angeles beach communities before it became part of the Copley family holdings in the late 1920s.
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