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Owner of City Paper in negotiations with new buyer

The owner of the Baltimore City Paper said Monday it is in negotiations with a potential buyer, the same day it announced the collective sale of its four other alternative weekly newspapers.

Scott Lynett, CEO of Times-Shamrock Communications, which has operated the City Paper for about 25 years, confirmed the negotiations but declined to identify the potential buyer.

He also said he will directly oversee the publishing of the City Paper for now, after the paper's interim publisher, Michael Wagner, departed Times-Shamrock on Monday as part of the separate sale of its other alternative weeklies.

"The property will probably run without a publisher in the short term while we make a decision on who we'll put in charge there," Lynett said. "I'll oversee the property directly."

The company, which also operates a stable of daily and community papers, mainly in Pennsylvania, decided to sell its five alternative weeklies this summer as part of a long-term strategic plan to diversify its portfolio, Lynett said.

Funds raised Monday, and through the eventual sale of the City Paper, will help the company capitalize new projects, he said. Terms of Monday's sale were not disclosed.

Though now separated from the company's other alternative weeklies, the City Paper, an alternative weekly with a circulation just over 59,000 as of December 2012, remains an attractive business for any potential buyer, Lynett said.

"It was a very profitable and viable business for us, and there's no reason to believe that moving forward it wouldn't be the same," he said.

Lynett would not comment further on the current negotiations.

A sale of the City Paper would conclude Times-Shamrock's plans to divest its alternative weeklies.

The company's sale Monday included its four other alternative weeklies — the Orlando Weekly, San Antonio Current, Detroit Metro Times and Cleveland Scene — and their associated websites and events.

The buyer, Euclid Media Group, is a new company formed this year by three men, including two publishers from within Times-Shamrock: Wagner and Chris Keating, who published Scene.

Lynett said Wagner and Keating expressed interest in purchasing the company's four alternative weeklies when Times-Shamrock first said it would divest them, and in retaining the staff at each of the weeklies, which they have done.

"We were thrilled to be able to sell to people who we knew were going to retain our employees and, frankly, who we knew were going to be good stewards for these businesses," Lynett said.

Wagner and Keating did not express interest in buying the Baltimore City Paper, Lynett said.

"Baltimore City Paper was never part of the Euclid deal," he said.

Neither Wagner nor Keating responded to requests for comment Monday.

In a statement published by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Keating said the "strength of our brands has always centered on serving our local communities with excellent journalism," and the new structure under Euclid "will be no different as we expand our digital and mobile content and allow our advertisers to target our local audience."

He continued: "Not only do we see growth opportunities within the digital space, but also through the expansion of our events, creative services, and other niche publications."

The third partner, Andrew Zelman, said the alternative weeklies the group purchased "all play a prominent role in the communities they serve and we are planning to continue that tradition."

The shift at Times-Shamrock comes as many media companies in the region and across the country are taking another look at their portfolios.

The Baltimore Sun's owner, Tribune Co., considered selling its publishing assets but decided to spin off its newspapers — which also include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — as a separate company from its television holdings.

Renee Mutchnik, marketing director for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, which also publishes magazines and community newspapers, said Monday the company does not "have any news regarding an acquisition" of the City Paper or any other publications.

"If and when we decide to add any new publications to our portfolio, we will release information," she said.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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