Updated: Dean Singleton in the catbird seat
About an hour ago, I was a guest on the KHOW radio show hosted by Peter Boyles -- who, much to my chagrin, didn't mention vaginas even once -- and he said two sources had told him that executives from the E.W. Scripps company, owner of the Rocky Mountain News, are in town. If that's true (and I haven't been able to independently verify the information at this writing), a decision about the fate of the Rocky, which was put up for sale in December, could be very near. In the meantime, Boyles noted that his co-host for a show tomorrow at Winter Park is scheduled to be none other than Dean Singleton, vice chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group, which owns the Denver Post. If there's a Rocky resolution today, he would certainly have plenty to discuss. (Update, 9:10 a.m.: I've now communicated with three Rocky insiders, none of whom know anything about a visit from Scripps executives...)
Not that Singleton has been shy about commenting on journalism matters taking place beyond the state's borders. As noted in a blog yesterday, the troubles afflicting the San Francisco Chronicle have ripple effects in Denver, in part because the paper's owner, the Hearst Corp., holds much of the massive debt accrued by MediaNews Group. In addition, MediaNews owns a number of papers in or near the Bay Area, ranging from community publications to major dailies like the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune. And in comments made yesterday to Editor & Publisher, a journalism-industry mag, Singleton implied that he wouldn't be averse to adding the Chronicle to his portfolio.
For the most part, Singleton played coy in the E&P article, headlined "Singleton Watching SF Chronicle Situation 'With Interest.'" He told writer Joe Strupp, "We'll just watch it play out. I am not going to speculate on what could happen. It would be futile to speculate on the future." Later, after noting that Hearst owns a 31 percent stake in MediaNews newspaper properties outside Colorado, Singleton added, "Hearst is a valued partner of MediaNews. We've worked together on many fronts. But this is a situation that they are playing out on their own. We will be watching with interest."
Could Singleton actually afford to buy the Chronicle? Because MediaNews Group is a private company that doesn't have to disclose a lot of its financial information (a point made in the blog "Dean Singleton's Giant Balls"), it's hard to tell -- but the downgrading of MediaNews by Moody's Investors Services and the fevered renegotiation of union contracts at the Post and the Denver Newspaper Agency implies that the firm is on something other than firm financial footing.
As such, it's mighty doubtful that Singleton could or would want to pick up the Chronicle -- not unless doing so was part of a complicated deal with Hearst that wouldn't require much, if any, cash to change hands. But he's a master at staying cool and cocksure in the crossfire, as he's shown throughout the past several months. The heat may have been turned up, but he's damn well not going to let anyone see him sweat.