Updated: AMI Sold to Philadelphia City Paper Owner

Sources Say Price Tag Over $20 Million.

We have a winner.

More than a month after six suitors came a-calling and four hopefuls submitted bids, the hotly-contested auction of Alternative Media Inc. [AMI] has come to an end.

Officials of the Detroit-based, three-paper chain announced yesterday (Nov. 23) that they signed a letter of intent to sell Metro Times, Orlando Weekly, and the San Antonio Current to an investment group headed by Mr. Arthur W. Howe.

Howe is president and publisher of Ft. Washington, Pa.-based Montgomery Newspapers, owner of 32 publications in Southeastern Pennsylvania, including thirteen suburban weeklies, several specialty publications and the AAN-member Philadelphia City Paper. Howe — a former Philadelphia Inquirer executive and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter — is expected to finalize the purchase of AMI by early next year.

AMI President and CEO Ron Williams, and company co-founder and COO Laura Markham, announced the sale from their offices in Detroit, home of AMI’s 108,000-circulation flagship paper, Metro Times.

“We chose Art [from the pool of final four bidders],” says Williams, “because we believe he will treat our employees fairly, pursue the existing mission of the company [of putting out good newspapers] and he agreed to pay us a reasonable price for 18 years of work.”

Citing confidentiality agreements, Williams would not reveal financial terms of the deal. Howe could not be reached for comment. However, a source familiar with the bidding says AMI’s price tag “might have been north of twenty [million dollars].” Other sources also say the chain sold for at least $20 million.

The AMI auction attracted considerable interest. Alternative newsweekly chains New Times, Inc. and Stern Publishing were in the hunt; so were Philadelphia Weekly owner Review Publishing and Baltimore City Paper parent Times Shamrock Group. The owners of AAN-member paper Weekly Planet in Tampa, Fla. were also said to have expressed interest.

According to an AMI press release, Markham, who holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University, plans to dedicate more time to motherhood and a career in psychology.

As for Williams, he’s taking an extended professional sabbatical and pondering his options: “I’m going to my house in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. And I plan on monitoring the comings and goings of the iguana population.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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