When billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz bought the struggling San Francisco Examiner in 2004, his people let it be known that he was going into the free daily business in a big way. They let it leak that Anschutz's Clarity Media had registered the name "Examiner" in some 70 markets, prompting speculation that he would start free tabloids in those cities. A year later he started the Washington Examiner and in early 2006 launched the Baltimore Examiner.
Since then the Anschutz team has said little about expansion into other markets. But the story behind-the-scenes is that Anschutz put the rollout of new dailies on hold while he extricated himself from a legal morass involving a Denver telephone company he founded, Qwest.
The reprieve gave Clarity's management time to show that their concept of a free daily could make money. But now that Anschutz is out of the woods on the Qwest front, his newspapers are still losing money. As a result, we're told that no expansions are planned in Los Angeles (contrary to a June 11 report by the Web site MediaLife) or any other markets.
Apparently things aren't so bad that he's ready to pull the plug, but we're told "the clock is ticking." Anschutz isn't afraid to cut his losses. Ever hear the story about Anschutz's son-in-law who used the billionaire's money to fund a business-news radio station in Denver? The station never made money. One day Anschutz had enough of the losses. He walked into the station in the middle of the day, ordered that the power be cut, and then final paychecks were handed out to the staff as they filed out of the darkened building.