Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Metro? Anschutz: no; Dagsbrun: perhaps

Billionaire oilman Philip Anschutz (left) will not bid for Metro International's three U.S. papers, a spokesman says. But a unit of Iceland's phone company, which started a free daily in Boston last year, is giving the Metro papers a serious look, a source tells

Dagsbrun, a Reykjavik-based TV-phone-publishing conglomerate, made it clear when it launched BostonNOW that it wanted papers in major markets across the country. Dagsbrun has two reasons to buy the three Metros:
    1. One of the Metros is in Boston. Dagsbrun could eliminate a free daily competitor to its BostonNOW.

    2. It could rebrand the New York and Philly Metros as "NOW" papers and get started on its nationwide rollout. The Metro format, imported from Sweden, hasn't caught on in the United States. A re-design and a re-branding could help.
Meanwhile, we continue to hear unconfirmed rumors that The New York Times Co. is interested in the Metros as well. The Times owns 49 percent of Boston Metro and it has a classified-sharing deal with New York Metro. The thinking is that if the Times views Metro as a good way to extend the reach of its classifieds, then the paper is worth owning.

As for Anschutz, his spokesman, Jim Monaghan, was crystal clear when he told the Denver Business Journal that his boss was not interested in buying the three Metros. Monaghan shot down a report that originally appeared in The Phoenix, a Boston alt-weekly, and then the Boston Globe which claimed Anschutz wanted to add the Metros to his Examiner chain. Funny thing, though — the Globe's parent is the NYT. The Gray Lady might know something about the situation since it owns 49 percent of Boston Metro.