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Potential buyers may visit Citizen

Citizen Staff Writer



Potential buyers of the Tucson Citizen have been invited to visit the Citizen’s newsroom and interview employees next week, according to representatives from the paper’s corporate owner.

Gannett Co. Inc., sent two company representatives to the Tucson Citizen on Wednesday.

Ann Clark, news executive for Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing Division, and Bob Oliver, Gannett vice president for compensation and benefits, said they came to support the staff.

“It is not unusual when a newspaper is facing a really complicated situation to have someone from corporate staff come in,” Clark said Friday.

The sale or closure of the Citizen has been complicated by the late arrival of bidders, causing Gannett to extend the original March 21 date it set for closure or sale of the Citizen.

On March 17, Gannett announced that “very interested buyers” had approached the company and negotiations for a sale were active and would not be complete by March 21.

At that point, the paper went to a day-to-day publishing status, although on March 20, employees received notice that the sale or closure would not happen before March 27. Tara Connell, spokeswoman for Gannett, said Friday that the Citizen will continue on “day-to-day status.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees newspaper joint operating agreements, has launched an investigation into the sale.

“Regarding the situation with the Tucson Citizen, all I can say is the investigation continues,” Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said Friday.

Connell said Gannett’s primary concern is with its employees in Tucson, which is why Clark and Oliver came to the newsroom.

“You have to understand, normally, we don’t offer a newspaper for sale and say in exchange they might shut down,” Connell said. “This is unusual and we’re trying to have people there who can answer questions.”

Connell said she didn’t know if the potential buyers had accepted the invitation to visit and that she would not ask others at Gannett for the answer.

“I’m not going to pursue that,” she said. “This is an unusual situation with you guys.”

Two people who contacted the Citizen in February about bidding on the paper are Mike Hamila, owner of UNIsystems Mainframe Systems LLC in Phoenix, and David Ganezer, publisher of the Santa Monica Observer and a spokesman for the Santa Monica Media Corp.

When contacted Friday, both declined to comment, citing non-disclosure agreements they signed with Gannett as a requirement of entering into the bidding process.

Gannett announced Jan. 16 it was selling “assets” of the Citizen, which it defined as the Internet domain, the archives and lists of advertisers and subscribers.

The company is not offering its 50-percent interest in a joint operating agreement with the Arizona Daily Star, owned by Lee Enterprises Inc. The agreement stipulates that profits from both papers are shared equally between Gannett and Lee.

Though Clark expected to be in Tucson through next week, Oliver said he would be leaving this weekend.

Gannett invites potential buyers to visit Citizen

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