Blatstein group says it wants to join PMN bidding

Developer Bart Blatstein.
Developer Bart Blatstein.
Posted: February 08, 2012

Developer Bart Blatstein and four partners have formed a company to explore purchasing Philadelphia Media Network Inc. (PMN), parent company of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and, but as of now it is unclear whether his group will be able to participate in the bidding process.

Blatstein last year bought the iconic 18-floor tower occupied by the newspapers and the website.

Blatstein's company, Philly Hometown Media L.L.C., is trying to join the competition to bid on the media company now that it appears to be in play. Last week, former Gov. Ed Rendell and five partners announced they had expressed interest in buying the company.

However, the Blatstein group's interest remains outside the current process set up by PMN's owners that may lead to a change in ownership for the media properties.

In a statement, PMN spokesman Mark Block said that the company "is not in discussions" with Blatstein or Philly Hometown Media to buy the media properties.

PMN is currently owned by a consortium of investment firms that bought the company out of bankruptcy in 2010. The owners have engaged Evercore Partners, a New York investment-banking firm, to market the company.

But it is unclear whether Evercore is still accepting offers for the company. According to some reports, prospective bidders had until Feb. 2 to submit letters of interest.

The company's owners and Evercore have declined to comment.

Blatstein is joined by William A. Harvey, managing partner of Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg L.L.P., a Center City law firm; beverage mogul Harold Honickman, chairman of the Honickman Group of companies; Gerard H. Sweeney, president and chief executive officer of Brandywine Realty Trust, and Radnor attorney Andrew L. Barroway, who specializes in class-action securities litigation.

In an interview Wednesday morning, Blatstein said his group stands "committed to proceeding with discussions about the purchase of the assets of PMN."

On Monday, the Blatstein group had issued a statement that seemed to set it apart from statements made by the group organized by Rendell, which described the media outlets as a public trust and said that its members might be willing to accept a lower profit margin than pure investors might.

"We reject the notion that operating the dominant print and online source for news and information in the Philadelphia area has to be an act of philanthropy," the Blatstein group said.

"Notwithstanding the number and diverse quality of the streams of content available to us all," the group said, "there is no reason that a nimble and talented management team, operating in an appropriate cost environment, cannot execute on a plan which deploys exquisitely talented and dedicated journalists who engage, inform and inspire their readers in a manner that is of real value to them and the producers of that information."

Honickman, reached at his Pennsauken office Monday, said Blatstein had reached out in recent days to form the group to explore the purchase.

"If the numbers look good, we might be looking at an investment, it depends upon the price," Honickman said. "I haven't done any due diligence yet."

In October, Blatstein bought PMN's aging North Broad Street headquarters for $22.7 million, according to city real estate records.

It is unclear whether Blatstein's interest includes retaining the media company as a tenant, since PMN has signed a lease to move to new, smaller offices at Eighth and Market Streets in June.

PMN is said to be gauging interest from potential buyers, and that an imminent sale is not certain. Parties that express interest and sign a confidentiality agreement may be invited back for a more detailed exploration of the company's financial statements.

On Friday, Rendell confirmed that he and five other corporate and political leaders had submitted a non-binding letter of interest in the company last week.

Rendell's group includes New Jersey businessman Lewis Katz; Comcast-Spectacor chairman Edward M. Snider; William P. Hankowsky, chief executive of Liberty Property Trust; George E. Norcross III, insurance executive, New Jersey Democratic leader, and chairman of the board of Cooper Health System and Cooper University Hospital in Camden, and Krishna "Kris" Singh, president and chief executive officer of Holtec International in Marlton.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Raymond Perelman, 94, the Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist who wanted to buy the newspapers and website two years ago, also has expressed interest.

PMN's current owners, which include investment firms Alden Global Capital and Angelo, Gordon & Co., bought the media company for $139 million in 2010. Its previous owners, Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., headed by advertising executive Brian Tierney, declared bankruptcy in 2009.

Contact staff writer Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980 or, or @PhillyInc on Twitter.

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