Two SF Bay Area Alternative Weeklies Sold

East Bay Express goes to New Times, and Urbanview sold to Metro Newspapers.

Two alternative newspapers that compete in California’s Oakland/Berkeley area announced Friday that they are being sold. East Bay Express signed a letter of intent to be acquired by Phoenix-based New Times Inc., while Urbanview was sold to Metro Newspapers, which is headquartered in nearby San Jose.

The Express will change hands from one out-of-state chain to another, with the Chicago Reader agreeing to sell its 54 percent interest in the 64,000-circulation paper to New Times. Individuals at the Reader have been involved with the Express since it was launched in 1978, and the company has been an owner for more than a decade, said Reader Treasurer Thomas Yoder. The individual stockholders of the Reader are also owners of the Washington City Paper.

“They made a really good offer and [editor and publisher] John Raeside was supportive of it,” said Jane Levine, publisher of the Reader.

Raeside co-founded the paper in 1978 with then-publisher Nancy Banks. He could not be reached to comment.

The sale should close by the end of the month, Yoder said. When that happens, New Times, which changed its corporate name in October to NT Media, will own 13 alternative weeklies with a total weekly circulation of 1.2 million. New Times representatives could not be reached to comment.

Five-and-a-half miles south of the Express’ Berkeley office, the younger, smaller, Urbanview (formerly Urban View ) was sold to the Metro Newspapers chain. The 22,000-circulation Oakland paper became an AAN member last year and began publishing weekly only a few months ago.

Suzanne Rotondo and Krista Reid-McLaughlin, who launched the paper in 1999, both recently left for personal reasons but will retain a small ownership interest, said Metro CEO Dan Pulcrano. He said Metro had been working with Urbanview even before the sale was completed, helping with the paper’s redesign as well as the recruitment effort that resulted in the recent hiring of Publisher Mimi Thomas and Managing Editor Jodi Levin. Thomas came from Cincinnati CityBeat while Levin was formerly a senior editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Pulcrano does not expect to make any changes at Urbanview. “We think the paper’s great. We think the staff’s great,” he said. “We’ve worked with them… Now we’ll be able to offer regional [advertising] buys with more circulation in the area.”

Urbanview is Metro Publishing’s fourth AAN-member paper in the greater San Francisco Bay area; the others are Metro Silicon Valley, Metro Santa Cruz and the Northern California Bohemian (formerly Sonoma County Independent). The chain also owns six community papers in Northern California, and has a combined weekly circulation of over 305,000.

The timing of the two sale announcements was completely coincidental, Pulcrano said. He signed a letter of intent on Dec. 15, but waited until his return from vacationing in Cuba to announce the sale.

When asked if he was intimidated by New Times’ “deep pockets,” Pulcrano said: “They’re known as such a humanistic and benevolent company, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to share the market with us.”

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