Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Move to Save the 'Star-Bulletin'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Move to Save the 'Star-Bulletin'

Article excerpt

Rumors of ESOP are no fables

Editorial employees seek white knight with deep pockets in the suit of armor

Editorial employees at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin are not quite ready to wave aloha to their troubled but beloved newspaper. In fact, they're thinking about buying it.

In an unusual move, about 80% of the Star- Bulletin's editorial employees -- about 75 people -- have expressed interest in participating in a stock-ownership plan at the newspaper.

Ideally, the employees would link up with a financially sound outside investor with deep pockets who would purchase the paper and rehire editorial staff along with displaced or interested applicants from the Hawaiian Newspaper Agency, the business arm of the Star-Bulletin and its joint operating agreement (JOA) partner, the Gannett Co. Inc.-owned Honolulu Advertiser.

Liberty Newspapers put the afternoon Star- Bulletin on the market in April. A court-monitored agreement gives Liberty until today to sell the newspaper. The agreement was made in the wake of a federal antitrust lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in October by Hawaii's attorney general and a citizens' group. The suit, on hold until the sale deadline, alleges Gannett and Liberty conspired to create a monopoly in Honolulu.

Liberty agreed in September to end its JOA and close the 67,000- circulation Star-Bulletin in exchange for $26.5 million from Gannett.

The stock-ownership proposal is seen as a long shot at best. However, because the employees are working with a New York investment firm and have submitted a letter to the broker, they will be privy to any deal. In essence, they can at least monitor who, if anyone, ends up controlling their destiny.

"It's just a matter of getting a toe in the door," features writer Burl Burlington said. "That way, we can participate in the sales process in an official way. …

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