A group of Pikes Peak-area investors say they have gathered $10 million in pledges to potentially purchase The Denver Post and are urging others across the state to join them.
“If the terms are right, we can contribute at least $10 million to the purchase. We are in the process of hiring an investment banking firm to advise us,” said John Weiss, chair of Together for Colorado Springs and owner of the Colorado Publishing House.
The group, known as the Resurrect the Denver Post Exploratory Committee, is reaching out to other Colorado investors following recent staff reductions in the paper’s newsroom. The cuts will leave approximately 70 journalists to cover a metro area of 2.8 million people and a state with 5.6 million.
Although The Post isn’t the group’s hometown paper, Weiss said its members realize the importance of a statewide daily centered in Denver. They believe that The Post would require millions more in working capital to restore its former depth of local coverage.
“For me, the real question is not how much The Post will cost, but how much it will cost to turn it around and bring it back,” Weiss said. “The Post needs TLC not only in editorial but in all departments — circulation, marketing, sales.”
Colorado Publishing House publishes seven newsweeklies plus a dozen specialty publications and digital offerings, including the Colorado Springs Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal. The Independent counts about 36,000 subscribers.
The exploratory committee includes environmental attorney Perry Sanders and Florida attorney John Goede, who co-own the Antlers and Mining Exchange hotels in Colorado Springs.
Other members include Alan Gottlieb, former Post reporter and co-founder of Chalkbeat, a nonprofit digital news organization covering education; former state insurance commissioner and Manitou Springs Mayor Marcy Morrison; entrepreneur and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Jim Stewart and Chuck Murphy, president of Murphy Constructors, who also was a member of the Colorado Economic Development Commission.
New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital acquired MediaNews Group, the owner of The Denver Post, in early 2011 after buying up private shares from creditors. Staff levels in the Denver newsroom under Alden’s ownership have fallen significantly, and the latest reduction sparked an editorial and a package of columns in The Post’s Perspectives section on Sunday that critiqued Alden and pushed for a sale of the paper.
Alden Global’s managers have cited the sharp drop in advertising revenues that has plagued the larger newspaper industry as driving the cuts. The Post is not alone among regional newspapers in making repeated staff reductions in recent years. But media critics such as Ken Doctor argue the hedge fund is cutting more sharply than other owners..
“The good news is that there are a lot of conversations happening at the moment among a bunch of different folks who are concerned about keeping a scaled newsroom going in Colorado,” said JB Holston, dean of Daniel F. Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science at Denver University.
“There is a shared concern that Alden won’t do the right thing ever and that the community needs to step up,” Holston said. “They seem to have no sense on how to optimize or protect the value of an asset.”
One model that Denver-based philanthropic strategist Bruce DeBoskey, who writes a syndicated column for The Post, is researching is the establishment of a community foundation, similar to one used to preserve the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.
Alden Global and another hedge fund, Angelo Gordon & Co., sold the publishing group at a loss in 2012 for $55 million to a group of wealthy Philadelphia residents from across the political spectrum. They and other donors created an endowment to oversee the paper, which has since hired new staff and boosted coverage.
Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns the Colorado Springs Gazette, has reportedly offered to buy The Post in the past but was rebuffed.
Weiss said his group is looking at all options, including a for-profit model and a nonprofit one, as well as launching a rival paper, although he emphasized he would prefer to avoid a newspaper war. They also want to ensure that any future owner of The Post supports the inclusion of all perspectives in its coverage and will not operate with an ideological bent.
“The Denver Post is the largest news organization in the state. There would be a huge vacuum if the Post evaporated,” he said.