More questions, some answers

By JEFF INGLIS  |  April 4, 2012

While we take Sussman at his word that he'll stay out of editorial decisions, Kesich says "he's going to have a hand in making business decisions." WHAT HAPPENS WHEN BUSINESS CHOICES IMPACT EDITORIAL coverage? That's unclear — while Sussman has said in a written statement that he'll trust the editors and managers hired by the previous owners, at some point they'll leave and he'll hire their replacements. Kesich asks skeptics to "look at what we do and evaluate what we do."

Read this story online to learn more questions — some with answers.

Jeff Inglis can be reached at  jinglis@phx.com.


Addendum

My column this week has some questions — and some answers — about the new incarnation of MaineToday Media, the owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, and the Central Maine Morning Sentinel.

I ran out of room in the paper to give you all the info I had, so here’s an addendum. (Also, I’m attempting to get an interview with Donald Sussman; fingers crossed on that!)


There’s been a lot of talk about EDITORIAL INTEGRITY as a result of this deal, in which Donald Sussman has bought 75 percent of the company for $3.3 million. We take Sussman at his word that he won’t get involved in the editorial board and daily news operations; if he proves us wrong, we’ll let you know. Also, Greg Kesich, the union veep and PPH columnist I spoke to this week promises, as union prez Tom Bell has in other interviews, that the union will advocate for journalistic principles if issues arise.

On that note, we already know that SUSSMAN WILL BE IN THE NEWS A LOT MORE than he is used to, as a result of this deal. He’s normally just a good-guy character, donating millions to progressive and community causes around the state. Now he’s opening himself to criticism, ridicule, and general widespread attention. The paper is looking at how best to handle DISCLOSURES ABOUT HIS OWNERSHIP when dealing with stories that might relate to him or his interests — or his wife and her political career. While under Richard Connor, that sort of owner-disclosure was rare (“we were told not to do it,” Kesich says), but since Sussman has gotten involved, that information has been regularly inserted in stories about Pingree.

What does the purchase price mean for THE COMPANY’S TOTAL VALUATION? Probably very little. It’s definitely not as simple as saying if $3.3 million equals three-fourths of the company, then the whole thing is worth $4.4 million. For one thing, the company owns land and a building in South Portland, valued by that city at $12.1 million (despite that number, it sold in 2009 for $7 million as part of the Blethens’ exit). The building is home to a printing press and other equipment valued at $6.8 million. And there are subscriber and advertiser databases, which are worth money to marketers, as well as the archival records, which are worth something to collectors and libraries. In the end, though, any company — like a home — is actually worth what it can be sold for, at the future date when it actually sells. So any calculation is unclear at best.

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