BC entreprenuer bids for Philly papers

BC lawyer and entrepreneur Ronald N. Stern, and his company Stern Partners Inc., is one of the three groups bidding for Philadelphia’s The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News at a bankruptcy auction.

The Inquirer reports that Stern, who owns a controlling interest in the Winnipeg Free Press, “has invested in magazines, paper mills, printing, clothing manufacturing, horticultural products, even water-technology start-ups.”

Inquirer reporter Jeff Gelles wrote:

Stern and his partner, Bob Silver, paid about $150 million (Canadian) for the Free Press and the smaller Brandon Sun, according to news accounts. A magazine profile dubbed them “media barons in the making.”

Since then, Stern has added sparingly to his media holdings, chiefly by acquiring Canstar Community News, a group of community and special-interest papers in the Winnipeg, Manitoba, area.

Though some observers questioned why a western Canadian businessman would covet the Philadelphia papers, newspaper analyst John Morton said the bid for The Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com made sense for Stern as an investor looking for undervalued properties.

Morton said the physical assets of Philadelphia Newspapers, including its buildings and printing equipment, were enough “to cover an awful lot of any acquisition price.”

Morton and others familiar with the Winnipeg newspaper’s operation described Stern as a savvy businessman who has been able to stay ahead of declines in circulation and advertising sales by cutting costs. “It’s an efficiently run company,” Morton said.

Although the Winnipeg paper has been through turbulent times recently – it suffered a 16-day strike in 2008, and a year earlier hired its third publisher in three years – it apparently has managed to remain profitable, and also to win praise for its journalism.”