The Insider

The documents confirm that Post publisher Dean Singleton told the truth last May when he informed a Houston business club that he and the Hearst Corporation had signed a $120 million agreement-in-principle for the sale of the Post's assets eight months before he actually shuttered the paper. The DOJ papers prove that Hearst's explanation of the purchase (i.e., the Post closed, and we just happened along and bought what was left) was less than candid, and they may explain why Hearst and Chronicle executives refused to hold a news conference the day of the closing/sale. Had they opened themselves up to questions beyond the limits of their pro forma news release, questions about prior purchase agreements with Singleton would have been unavoidable.

The documents also include an interview with an unnamed person who had made a $70 million offer for the Post "with several contingencies." Since by that time Singleton had already inked a tentative agreement with Hearst for a sale price $50 million higher, is it too surprising that Singleton's folks supplied financial figures to the prospect indicating "problems that were much larger or much worse than he first expected"? That buyer, naturally, backed off.

The DOJ investigators concluded that Singleton could successfully mount a failing firm defense against charges of anti-competitive collusion with Hearst, and closed its investigation shortly before the publisher pulled the plug on the Post. Still, it strains The Insider's credulity to believe that once Singleton had the Chronicle offer in the bag, he would search in good faith for a buyer who would pay $50 million less. But maybe we're just a bunch of hard-boiled cynics.

The Insider is hungry! Force-feed him at 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax).

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