The Sun completes Patuxent acquisition Columbia company publishes 13 weeklies

September 20, 1997|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Sun Co. yesterday completed its acquisition of Patuxent Publishing Co., the Columbia-based publisher of 13 weekly newspapers and two magazines.

Mary E. Junck, publisher and chief executive officer of The Baltimore Sun Co., a subsidiary of the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Co., said the acquisition strengthens The Baltimore Sun Co.

"It fits in with our strategy, which is to be a very strong information provider in our market," she said.

Patuxent publishes 13 weekly papers in Howard and Baltimore counties, including the Columbia Flier, the Jeffersonian and the Northeast Times Reporter.

It also publishes seven community telephone directories and two magazines, Columbia Magazine and Guide to Howard County.

Patuxent publications have a combined circulation of more than 250,000 a week.

Basing its calculations on figures from the past five months, The Sun projects that its circulation for the six-month period will average 313,000 daily papers sold -- up 3 percent -- and 481,000 on Sunday, up 1 percent.

The deal, which was announced June 10, had been scheduled to be completed by the end of July.

But the U.S. Department of Justice's examination of the acquisition took longer than the two companies had expected.

The Department of Justice, which oversees antitrust matters, reviews newspaper mergers or acquisitions valued at more than $15 million.

Neither Patuxent nor The Baltimore Sun Co. would disclose the purchase price, but sources have put Patuxent's value at between $45 million and $50 million.

The Justice Department, which has the option of allowing mergers in 30 days, instead requested additional information about the Patuxent acquisition.

"We conducted a thorough review," said Gina Talamona, a Justice Department spokeswoman. "We're going to be closing the investigation and allowing the transaction to go through."

Philip Merrill, chairman of Capital-Gazette Communications Inc., publisher of the Annapolis Capital, the Maryland Gazette, Washingtonian magazine and other papers, said the Justice Department had circulated extensive 20-page surveys to other newspapers and advertisers.

The surveys included questions about advertising linage, sources of revenue and the identities of advertisers.

Merrill said he was surprised the merger won approval.

"It seems to me a reasonable interpretation of antitrust law that a dominant paper in a media market can't buy its immediate competitors," Merrill said.

Junck said attorneys who helped The Baltimore Sun Co. craft the acquisition were confident that it would win government approval.

Patuxent's operations will be folded into The Baltimore Sun Co.'s community newspaper division, which publishes the Aegis in Bel Air and other Harford County papers.

John Patinella, president and CEO of The Baltimore Sun Co.'s community newspaper division, will oversee the expanded operations. Patinella will continue to report to the publisher and CEO of The Baltimore Sun Co.

Michael E. Waller, publisher of the Hartford Courant in Connecticut, will become The Baltimore Sun Co.'s publisher and CEO on Oct. 1. Junck, who was promoted, will be president of Times Mirror's Eastern newspapers.

Junck maintained that the Patuxent papers' editorial independence will be preserved.

Significant changes are not anticipated, and there are no plans to reduce Patuxent's staff of 350 employees.

"John Patinella will be getting into how he'll want to manage Patuxent," Junck said. "When he gets into it, he'll make some recommendations."

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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