Thursday, December 18, 2008

MediaNews Sees Bad Timing on Newspapers, Not Bad Bets

Dean Singleton expanded his newspaper empire at the worst possible time, in the worst part of the country he could have chosen, and he has been paying the price ever since in plummeting advertising and shrinking papers. Yet somehow, even in today’s adverse climate, he professes optimism.

In 2006 and 2007, as prices for newspapers were peaking, Mr. Singleton’s company, the MediaNews Group, bought this city’s daily, The Mercury News, and more than 30 smaller San Francisco Bay Area papers. He gambled his company on California just as the bottom was about to fall out for newspapers, especially here.

“In retrospect, the timing was not good,” said Mr. Singleton, the head of and a major shareholder in the company, which is privately held. “But in our business, you buy newspapers when they’re for sale. If we could have foreseen the current economic downturn in the state, it might have changed our views, but we couldn’t foresee that.”

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