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Pulitzer Inc. sells its newspapers to Lee Enterprises, creating nation’s fourth-largest newspaper publisher

SHARE Pulitzer Inc. sells its newspapers to Lee Enterprises, creating nation’s fourth-largest newspaper publisher

ST. LOUIS — Pulitzer Inc., which publishes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Arizona Daily Star and a dozen other daily newspapers, has been bought by Lee Enterprises Inc. in a $1.46 billion deal that creates the nation's fourth-largest newspaper publisher.

Michael E. Pulitzer, grandson of the founder and chairman of the Pulitzer board of directors, said the sale to Lee, announced Sunday and approved unanimously by Pulitzer's board, was in the best interests of Pulitzer's shareholders.

The companies said in a joint statement they expect the deal to be completed by this spring.

In a letter to employees posted throughout the Post-Dispatch building, Pulitzer said the deal would mesh two companies with similar cultures and values, beginning with their long history in and passion for journalism. "Together, Pulitzer and Lee will be a more powerful industry presence."

Pulitzer will become a subsidiary of Lee, which will have 10,700 employees after absorbing Pulitzer's roughly 4,000 workers. Lee will gain a minority stake in the St. Louis Cardinals major-league baseball team.

Davenport, Iowa-based Lee, which operates 44 daily newspapers in 19 states, will pay $64 per share in cash for all of Pulitzer's holdings, which include 14 daily newspapers and more than 100 weekly newspapers, shoppers, and niche publications. Lee would also assume $306 million of Pulitzer's debt.

The acquisition will make the Lee company fourth in numbers of U.S. daily newspapers and seventh in circulation with 58 daily newspapers in 23 states and a circulation of 1.7 million daily and 2 million on Sundays, the company said.

In November, Pulitzer said it was considering a possible sale or other options to increase shareholder value. The purchase is a continuation of Lee's long-term strategies, said Mary Junck, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Lee.

"The acquisition of Pulitzer allows us to take an exciting and logical next step into another exceptionally attractive group of markets, exactly the kind where we excel as an industry leader in building revenue and circulation," she said.

The deal scuttles a longshot bid by six Post-Dispatch employees who — worried about an outside buyer — had launched a longshot effort to buy the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Program, under which all workers could share ownership.

Other Pulitzer newspapers that were sold include The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.; The Daily Herald, Provo, Utah; the Santa Maria Times, Santa Maria, Calif.; The Napa Valley Register, Napa, Calif.; The World, Coos Bay, Ore.; The Sentinel, Hanford, Calif.; the Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff, Ariz.; the Daily Chronicle, DeKalb, Ill.; The Garden Island, Lihue, Hawaii; the Daily Journal, Park Hills, Mo.; The Lompoc Record, Lompoc, Calif.; and The Daily News, Rhinelander, Wis.

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