Oakland Tribune saved at the bell Pledge of $5 million saves ailing paper.


OAKLAND, Calif. -- The ailing Oakland Tribune was saved from extinction less than an hour before sunrise yesterday, when the non-profit Freedom Forum came to the rescue with a pledge to pump at least $5 million into the debt-ridden newspaper.

Employees who just one day earlier had brought in cardboard boxes, expecting to pack up their belongings when the paper folded, were jubilant. They hugged each other, cried, toasted their good fortune with mineral water and danced in the newsroom after publisher Robert C. Maynard announced that "the Oakland Tribune is here to stay."

Saving Oakland's only daily newspaper -- and the only major black-owned paper in the nation -- was made possible by the willingness of Gannett Co. Inc., which once owned the Tribune, to forgive most of a debt of $31.5 million.

Under the final agreement, Gannett will accept $2.5 million in cash and $5.5 million in preferred stock as the total payoff of a debt of $31.5 million incurred when Maynard and his wife, Nancy, bought the paper in 1983.

The Freedom Forum, until recently the largest stockholder in Gannett, has agreed to guarantee the $2.5 million payment to Gannett as part of its pledge to invest $5 million in the paper.

The Oakland community had within the last week rallied behind the Tribune to save it.

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