AMI Sale in the Works

Four Suitors Holding Talks With Three-Paper Chain.

The braintrust behind Alternative Media Inc. [AMI] is “seriously considering” selling its three alternative newsweeklies, company President and CEO Ron Williams tells AAN News.

“For the first time in 18 years, there’s a possibility that AMI could be sold,” says Williams, who — together with AMI Vice President and COO Laura Markham — owns a controlling interest in the company.

Williams says he’s presently talking to four parties interested in acquiring AMI’s papers. AMI owns Orlando Weekly, the San Antonio Current and Detroit Metro Times, the company’s 18-year-old, 108,000-circulation flagship paper.

Citing confidentiality agreements, Williams declines to reveal the identity of any of the prospective buyers. But he admits that “[all] the people we’re talking to are already operating AAN-member papers.”

“Our papers are all doing very well, the company is doing really well,” he says. “There’s no compelling reason for us to sell.”

Says AMI National Editor Monte Paulsen: “Ron’s had some really attractive offers. That’s why he’s letting them kick the tires, and if they come up with the right price, he’s willing to sell.”

Speculation among industry observers varies. One source with more than a decade of experience around alternative papers estimates that Metro Times likely generates at least $8 million alone in annual gross sales. Another source, also with 10 years experience in the industry, says the three papers combined probably have annual gross sales somewhere between $12 million and $15 million.

Says Williams: “I’ve been doing this without a break for 18 years and in the past few years we’ve fielded a steady number of inquiries [to buy the papers]. If we find a buyer that’s suitable to us and a price that’s suitable to us, then we’re going to have to think real long and hard about making this transaction.”

Although he says a deal could be finalized by the end of November, Williams maintains that there’s still a chance the papers will not be sold. But he’s also quick to add: “Given the feeding frenzy [taking place as alternative papers continue to be purchased], a sale shouldn’t be much of a surprise.”

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