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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 10, 2010

Newspaper suitors advance in bidding

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sam Slom

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Malia Zimmerman

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Two parties interested in buying the Honolulu Star-Bulletin have moved one step closer to their goal.

State Sen. Sam Slom and Internet publisher Malia Zimmerman, who jointly put in a bid for the state's No. 2 paper, said Star-Bulletin owner Oahu Publications Inc. informed them yesterday that they met the standards as qualified bidders.

Texas private equity investor Brian Ferguson received a similar notification from Oahu Publications, according to a person familiar with the sales process.

The bid review, which is conducted under the supervision of the U.S. Justice Department and the state attorney general's office, will allow Ferguson and the Slom-Zimmerman team into the next round of bidding.

It also will allow them to talk to newspaper managers and conduct an on-site inspection of the Star-Bulletin's Kāne'ohe printing plant.

The bidders will have between Monday and April 19 to amend the proposals they submitted earlier this week.

Zimmerman said she and Slom visited the Star-Bulletin's Kāne'ohe plant and requested additional financial information from the company.

Zimmerman said she has enlisted the support of about 100 members of the local community to keep Honolulu as a two-newspaper town.

Oahu Publications is selling the Star-Bulletin, its Web site, circulation list and intellectual properties to make way for its purchase of the larger Advertiser.

Yesterday, Star-Bulletin Publisher Dennis Francis said Oahu Publications is on schedule to complete its purchase of The Advertiser on April 19.

The sale of The Advertiser will result in the termination of The Advertiser's roughly 600 employees, but Oahu Publications has agreed to retain the newspaper's employees during a transition period.

The closing date comes as a state judge rejected calls by several Advertiser employees seeking an injunction to delay the sale of the newspaper.

Several Advertiser employees, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, sued newspaper owner Gannett Co. last month, alleging that the company did not provide the 60-day notice of layoffs that's required under state law. They were asking for what amounted to a one month delay in the deal.

Circuit Judge Rom Trader said yesterday that he was sympathetic to the plight of the employees. But he ruled that the company provided adequate notice of the sale and that the circumstances didn't warrant the granting of an injunction.

"I don't believe the plaintiffs had met their burden of substantial harm," Trader said.