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Press: Cash Deal

2 minute read

Sun-Times goes to Murdoch

His holdings include such staid institutions as the Australian of Sydney and the Times of London. But the eight big-city tabloids of Press Baron Rupert Murdoch, 52, which cover their turf from Boston to Fleet Street, rarely stray from lurid roots: NUDE PRINCIPAL DEAD IN MOTEL (San Antonio Express); HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR (New York Post). Last week Murdoch took his headline high jinks to the U.S. heartland. He bought the troubled Chicago Sun-Times, the nation’s eighth largest urban daily, for $90 million in cash.

Taken as a whole, Murdoch’s American properties, from the checkout-counter tabloid Star to trendy New York magazine, are thriving. They earned $14 million last year for his $1.5 billion international empire,*despite New York Post losses estimated at $20 million. The Chicago deal also gives Murdoch’s News Corp. the Field Newspaper Syndicate, which distributes such columnists as Evans & Novak and Ann Landers.

The Sun-Times belonged to Chicago’s wealthy Field family for four decades. When current rent Directors Marshall Field 5th, 42, and his half brother Frederick, 31, began liquidating their extensive holdings last spring, the community-minded Marshall wanted a local group led by Sun-Times Publisher James Hoge, 47, to buy the paper. He promised staffers he would never sell it to Murdoch. But Hoge’s final offer was only $63 million and did not include the syndicate. In addition, Frederick, a film investor with a penchant for racing cars, was arguing in favor of Murdoch, who offered a quick cash deal.

Although the Sun-Times (circ. 639,000) was in the black ($3.3 million) last year, the rival Tribune (circ. 751,000) has 64.5% of the advertising market. Murdoch assured the Sun-Times’s 2,000 employees last week that no major changes were planned. Few were convinced. Some fear that Murdoch’s political conservatism will still the paper’s liberal voice. While the Sun-Times condemned the Grenada invasion, Murdoch’s Post endorsed it. Another warning: at a press conference, the new owner noted that recent acquisitions now receiving the Murdoch treatment “are making great progress and giving their competitors great trouble. We intend to be very competitive in Chicago as well.”

* Among his worldwide holdings: 47 newspapers; five magazines; assorted TV stations; video, film and record production ventures; a satellite network; three oil and gas exploration companies; printing and paper concerns; a diversified transportation company; and a sheep ranch in Deniliquin, Australia.

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