Canadian Buying Hawaiian Newspaper

Friday, November 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) — Canadian newspaper publisher David Black reached an agreement Thursday to buy the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, ending a plan to close the 118-year-old afternoon daily.

Black said he will assume control of the newspaper on March 15 from Liberty Newspapers LP and will publish it independently of the Gannett Co. Inc.-owned Honolulu Advertiser. The newspapers share advertising, circulation and printing functions under a joint operating agreement.

The agreement calls for Black to pay $10,000 to acquire rights to the Star-Bulletin's name, its advertiser and subscriber lists and other basic assets. He must start his own advertising and circulation departments and must move the Star-Bulletin out of the downtown Honolulu building it now shares with the morning Advertiser.

``The Star-Bulletin is a wonderful old newspaper,'' Black said. ``It's got a wonderful reputation in town and one of the things we discovered in the short time we've spent on this beautiful island is how much people like the Star-Bulletin and how much good will there is for it.''

Black owns British Columbia-based Black Press Ltd., which has more than 80 community newspapers in Canada and Washington state. He is not related to Canadian media magnate Conrad Black.

The agreement — which hinges on Black securing an adequate newsprint supply and labor contract with the Star-Bulletin's 90 newsroom employees by Nov. 30 — caps an eight-month sale process supervised by U.S. Magistrate Barry Kurren.

Liberty agreed to sell the newspaper to settle an antitrust lawsuit by the state and a citizens' group. They sued to stop a Gannett and Liberty plan to end their joint operating agreement 12 years early and close the Star Bulletin on Oct. 30, 1999. Liberty was to receive $26.5 million from Gannett to end the agreement.

The 64,000-circulation Star-Bulletin remained in publication under a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge.

``We are gratified that the negotiations are finally completed,'' said Mike Fisch, publisher of the 102,000-circulation Advertiser and president of the Hawaii Newspaper Agency, the joint publishing arm of the two dailies.

``We look forward to moving on and to competing with the new owner of the Star-Bulletin,'' Fisch said.

Black said he is eager to compete free of the constraints of the joint operating agreement. He plans to add a Sunday edition of the Star-Bulletin and hire up to 200 people to staff advertising and circulation departments.

Black said John Flanagan would remain as the Star-Bulletin's editor and publisher.