Thursday, November 26, 2009

Buyer emerges for Arizona free daily

Randy Miller — the owner of a free daily in Telluride, Colo., and a weekly in Tucson, Ariz. — has reached an agreement to buy the free daily East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., rescuing it from closure.

The Tribune switched from paid to free in October 2007. But earlier this year owner Freedom Communications entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, which forced the company to either close or sell unprofitable operations. Freedom put the Tribune up for sale, and if no buyer was found by Dec. 31, the paper was to close.

Terms weren't disclosed. But Miller said he hoped to keep a "substantial number" of the Tribune's remaining 140 employees, according to a report by the Tribune.

Miller is the former owner of the Colorado Daily in Boulder, one of the earliest free dailes. He sold it in 2007 to the owner of Boulder's other newspaper, The Daily Camera.

Miller currently owns the Telluride Daily Planet and the Tucson alt-weekly The Explorer. Miller's Explorer is printed on the Tribune's new, $4 million press, which he will now own.

The Tribune won a Pulitzer this year for a series that showed how a sheriff's emphasis on enforcing immigration laws reduced response times for other types of crime.

A major challenge Miller will face is increasing the Tribune's advertising base, which has been hard hit by the downturn in the housing market.