City Paper Will Be Sold To Suburban Weekly Chain Montgomery Newspapers Will Acquire Its 22d Publication For About $4 Million.

Posted: April 18, 1996

The City Paper, a Philadelphia alternative weekly started with $15,000 in 1981, is set to be sold today for about $4 million to Montgomery Newspapers, which publishes a chain of suburban weekly newspapers.

The City Paper would become the 22d publication of Montgomery Newspapers, a Fort Washington company that publishes 15 community weekly newspapers such as the Ambler Gazette and Main Line Life, along with a half-dozen specialty publications such as Art Matters and Philadelphia Golfer.

An executive close to the deal said the sale price was a little less than 1 1/2 times the City Paper's revenues last year.

Arthur W. Howe 4th, president and publisher of Montgomery Newspapers, said no major changes - ``absolutely none'' - were expected at the City Paper, which has 95,000 copies distributed free each week throughout the city and suburbs.

The City Paper, which focuses on Philadelphia culture, news and politics, is one of three alternative weeklies in the city, and the one most strongly aimed at youth.

Bruce Schimmel, the City Paper's founding editor and publisher, said he was selling the publication, in part, because he had grown tired of it. He said he found it difficult to be both a friend and employer to its 28 staffers and was ready to reap the rewards of a successful business whose profit grew 18 percent last year.

``I thought, well, enough is enough,'' he said yesterday. ``I have no interest in the thing anymore; it's made me as wealthy as I want to be, and I was bored.''

Schimmel, 43, founded the newspaper in 1981 when he was a graduate student in English, studying 18th century fiction, at the University of Pennsylvania. He said he began writing and reviewing dance for the campus radio station's monthly guide and began to talk over the idea of putting out an alternative newspaper with an editor at the guide. They decided to do it.

Schimmel said he would be a consultant to Montgomery Newspapers for three years, principally on new projects, and would continue to write a column for the City Paper.

``I like to make newspapers,'' Schimmel said. Montgomery Newspapers is ``very inventive out there, and they have money to spend on good products. That's a lot more interesting than running the same thing . . . for one-third of my life.''

Howe, formerly a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at The Inquirer, said he believed the future of newspapers rested with weekly niche publications such as his community and specialty newspapers. ``The readership of the City Paper is another community,'' he said.

Executives at the two companies said the City Paper could save money being printed at Montgomery Newspapers' printing plant. They also said there were plans to add reporters to the City Paper and sell its advertising with the other Montgomery Newspapers.

Paul Curci, the City Paper's associate publisher, has been named publisher, succeeding Schimmel. Schimmel said his post as editor will not be filled, and all the paper's staffers would be offered their jobs.

The City Paper's rivals were unsure what to make of the sale.

``If the paper had been bought by the Boston Phoenix or the Village Voice, I'd probably have some sense of what might happen,'' said Tim Whitaker, editor of Philadelphia Weekly. ``But the fact they're being bought by a suburban newspaper group? I don't have a clue.''

Dan Rottenberg, editor of the Philadelphia Forum, expressed concern because his newspaper is printed by Montgomery Newspapers. ``I'm a little uncomfortable about being printed by a company that also owns another weekly in the city,'' he said.

Howard Altman, the City Paper's news editor, said Schimmel had been a ``hands-off'' editor. When Schimmel hired him 2 1/2 years ago, Altman said, ``he basically handed me the keys to the car and said, `Don't crash it.' ''

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