Christopher Harte, a former Knight Ridder executive whose family is among the owners of San Antonio-based publisher and direct-marketing firm Harte-Hanks Inc., confirmed yesterday that he is part of a group of private-equity investors that has joined the bidding for the Philadelphia papers.
Harte said that he and his fellow bidders, if successful, would likely keep the Daily News open alongside The Inquirer, but that they have yet to draft formal operating plans. "Anything we'd say now would be platitudes at this point because we're not far into it," he said.
"I love newspapers, and I've always loved The Inquirer," Harte added. "It would be an incredible honor to try to keep it going as a strong newspaper serving Philadelphia. I hope to get the chance to do that."
Harte and others familiar with the group say it includes a Philadelphia private-equity investment group as well as national investors with special interest in owning media companies. The group is "focused on Philadelphia, but potentially open to other papers," Harte said.
He declined to provide details of the bid or name other investors. Like Denver newspaper chain MediaNews Group, union-backed private-equity firm Yucaipa Cos., and a separate group of Philadelphia investors headed by Brian P. Tierney and Bruce E. Toll, the private-equity investors have signed a nondisclosure agreement giving them access to financial data.
McClatchy is expected to sell the papers, one at a time or in batches, over the next few weeks.
Harte served as an assistant to James K. Batten, then Knight Ridder president, in the early 1980s and for three months was an assistant to P. Anthony Ridder, who is currently Knight Ridder's chairman. Harte then served as publisher of Knight Ridder's newspapers in State College, Pa., and Akron, Ohio. His career introduced him to many current Knight Ridder executives, including Inquirer and Daily News publisher Joe Natoli.
Harte was also a co-owner of the edgy parody publication Spy magazine, recalled former Inquirer editor Eugene Roberts, who said Harte made a favorable impression as a committed young newsman with a good sense of humor.
After leaving Knight Ridder, Harte was president of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram from 1992 to 1994; his boss cited "differences of opinion" in a statement announcing Harte's departure. Harte has spent the last decade as a private-equity investor, and is a co-owner of Current Publishing L.L.C., which publishes weekly papers in several towns in Maine.
He has contributed to a series of prominent Maine Democrats. In 2001, he considered running as a Democrat for a U.S. Senate seat from Maine, and Maine papers reported he was prepared to spend $5 million, before he backed out. He now splits his time between Texas and Maine. He owns Harte-Hanks shares valued at more than $15 million, and has other investments.
Contact staff writer Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.