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Group of investors negotiating to acquire Baltimore Magazine


A local investor group headed by Susan Souders Obrecht is negotiating to buy Baltimore Magazine.

Ms. Obrecht owns Mid-Atlantic Country magazine, a monthly based in Greenbelt. She once owned Times Publishing Group Inc., which published four weeklies: the Towson Times, the Owings Mills Times, the Baltimore Messenger and the Jeffersonian.

Included in Ms. Obrecht's investor group are Reg Murphy, former publisher of The Baltimore Sun; Robert Garrett, a New York investment manager and member of the board of trustees of the Abell Foundation Inc.; and Frank A. Bonsal Jr., a local venture capitalist. Financing would be provided by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. and Mercantile Bankshares Corp.

Baltimore Magazine, a monthly, has 20 employees and a monthly circulation of 55,000.

The magazine was founded by the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce in 1907 and is the nation's oldest city magazine. The chamber sold the magazine to Philip Merrill in 1977.

Stanley Heuisler, editor of Baltimore Magazine, said negotiations are taking place but that no final agreement has been reached. The price could not be determined.

Mr. Heuisler also said that a second investor, whom he declined to identify, had expressed interest in buying the magazine from Mr. Merrill if the current negotiations fail.

Charles Buerger, publisher of the Jewish Times, said he is interested in buying Baltimore Magazine, but it was not clear whether he was the second investor to whom Mr. Heuisler referred. Mr. Buerger said he had made no formal offer.

Mr. Heuisler said that if the magazine is sold to Ms. Obrecht's group, he will leave to become director of corporate development at the Annapolis Capital-Gazette, a daily newspaper Mr. Merrill owns.

Mr. Merrill, Ms. Obrecht and other investors in the group could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mr. Merrill, who works in Brussels, Belgium, is a deputy secretary of NATO.

In addition to Baltimore Magazine and the Capital-Gazette, Mr. Merrill owns Washingtonian, a monthly magazine.

James Koback, a magazine consultant based in Darien, Conn., said few city magazines outside of Los Angeles and New York make money. Some magazines have suffered especially from reduced advertising revenues during the recession, but the health of the industry varies from city to city, he said.

Mr. Koback, who said he was unfamiliar with Baltimore Magazine, said Ms. Obrecht has been able to turn around Mid-Atlantic Country and generate a small profit in the three years she has owned it.

"She's improved it," he said. "She knows how to sell advertising."

Mr. Heuisler said Mr. Merrill has been approached many times over the years, but that serious negotiations to sell the magazine are recent.

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