Avista Capital in $530m newspaper deal

The DLJ spinout has made plans to add to its long list of media-related investments with an agreement to purchase Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Star Tribune.

Avista Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in New York and Houston, has agreed to buy The Star Tribune Company, a Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota-based media group, from The McClatchy Company, a US-based newspaper company, for $530 million (€399 million), according to an Avista statement.

The Star Tribune Company consists of the Star Tribune, the largest newspaper in the Twin Cities area with a daily circulation of approximately 360,000, as well as the newspaper’s digital affiliate, StarTribune.com.  The newspaper is the 14th largest daily paper in the US.

“Despite the proliferation of media choices available today, newspapers represent the vehicle that can deliver content in all platforms from paper to the internet to phone,” James Finkelstein, an industry partner at Avista, said in the statement. “The Star Tribune will continue to capitalize on these market dynamics, supported by its broad talent pool and compelling brand.”

Finkelstein will become a member of The Star Tribune Company’s board following the completion of the transaction. Chris Harte, who serves on the firm’s executive advisory board, will become The Star Tribune Company’s chairman. Members of the company’s senior management will maintain their positions, the statement said.

The McClatchy Company’s portfolio of newspapers includes The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, The Kansas City Star,The Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News and Observer. The company also owns the web sites affiliated with each newspaper. It also owns a 15 percent stake in CareerBuilder, an online job site, and more than 25 percent of Classified Ventures, an operator of classified websites including cars.com and apartments.com. The McClatchy Company is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MNI.

Avista Capital spun out from DLJ Merchant Banking, the private equity arm of Credit Suisse First Boston, in September of 2005 and has a large portfolio of media companies. The firm bought 50 percent of Thomspon Publishing Group, a subscription-based information services provider, for $200 million from MidOcean Partners in November.