Rendell's silence lasts all of 2 days

Posted: February 21, 2012

ED RENDELL'S vow of silence was officially laid to rest yesterday.

It lasted about as long as most people expected.

The former governor, who told the Daily News on Saturday that he would no longer talk publicly about his pursuit of Philadelphia Media Network, discussed the topic at length with Buzz Bissinger on WPHT (1210-AM).

Rendell told Bissinger, who was guest-hosting "The Michael Smerconish Show" on WPHT yesterday afternoon, that his investor group - which includes powerful New Jersey Democrat George Norcross and businessman Lew Katz - would be "willing to do something" to convince reporters and readers that it wouldn't meddle with stories in the Daily News, Inquirer, Philly.com and SportsWeek, which are owned by PMN.

"I'd be open to ideas, and so would the group," said Rendell, adding that he'd probably be chairman of the board if his group took ownership. "You know, some form of pledge, some form of . . . outside review board. We would take a look at that because it's not anybody's intention [to interfere]."

Bissinger, who wrote a New York Times column last week that criticized the idea of Rendell owning the papers, asked Rendell if he would allow reporters to write stories that were critical of him or his investors.

"Our group, I'm certain, would be willing to enter into some agreement with the reportorial staff that we wouldn't influence any of their news reporting," Rendell said.

Rendell's investor team continues to receive media scrutiny in part because it is the only publicly acknowledged group bidding for PMN.

(It should be noted that Bissinger occasionally writes columns for the Daily News and that Rendell writes a weekly column for SportsWeek. Smerconish used to pen columns for the Daily News, but now his work is featured in the Inquirer. It's an incestuous place, the world of Philly media.)

Rendell said last week that he was unsure if any other investor groups were actively bidding for the newspapers and their website, which are owned by a collection of hedge funds.

Local philanthropist Raymond Perelman has complained publicly about not being allowed to bid for the company. Developer Bart Blatstein, who formed an investor group called Philly Hometown Media LLC, has also been shut out of the bidding process, which is being managed by Evercore Partners Inc.

Blatstein has said he was never told why his investor group couldn't bid for the media company.

Officials from Evercore's New York office have not responded to numerous requests from the Daily News for information about the bidding process.

Pavel Savor, an assistant professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, noted that privately owned companies aren't required to make public all of their business maneuvers.

"I'm sure people would like to know more about what's going on, but often the owners don't think it's in their best interests," he said.

Some observers of the PMN sale have speculated that its owners have wanted to negotiate only with Rendell's group. That, too, could make sense, Savor said.

"It's an oversimplification to say that selling a business through an auction always guarantees you the highest price," Savor said, noting that a low bid from just one investor group could have a big impact.

"There's one thing you can say about [hedge funds]," he added. "Their job is to maximize the return."

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