Washington Post Sells Stake in Herald Tribune
By Peter Behr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 22, 2002; 3:04 PM
The Washington Post Co. said it has been forced to sell its half-interest in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune to its co-owner, The New York Times Co., which was prepared to start a competing international edition of its newspaper if The Post refused its offer.
The purchase price was described by The Times as less than $75 million and the sale is expected to be completed late this year or early in 2003, said Times vice president Catherine Mathis.
In gaining control over the century-old Paris newspaper, The Times is advancing its strategy of becoming a global newspaper, media analysts said. "The IHT will become our international newspaper voice,'' Mathis said, adding that The Times has no plans to change the newspaper's management or operations.
"I think The Times was increasingly frustrated because they wanted to have a presence in the international market with the New York Times brand, which the IHT was not able to deliver," said Alex S. Jones, director of the Shornstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University..
The rupture of the shared ownership will end a unique publishing partnership between two leading U.S. media companies on a bitter note. In a statement today, Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham and senior executives said the decision to sell "was made with great reluctance and sadness - and little choice."
Graham's statement said that The Times had also warned that in addition to launching a competing publication, it would also block any cash infusions into the International Herald Tribune, threatening the future of the newspaper and its staff. Under those conditions, the IHT's operations would have soon become untenable. The Post said.
Mathis did not respond to The Post's statement beyond saying, "it was a mutually-agreed upon decision. We felt the IHT would benefit from the full commitment of a single owner."
The two newspapers - co-investors in the International Herald Tribune since the mid-1960s-have owned it jointly since 1991, with business and editorial leadership of the newspaper alternating between the two partners. Like other European newspapers, it has suffered from advertising losses over the past year.
The Post said it offered to buy the Times share for the same price offered by The Times, and was willing to place the IHT under Times business control, while keeping joint editorial control. The Times rejected those alternatives, The Post said.
Graham's statement said that the forced sale of the IHT leaves The Post "in an aggressive frame of mind" concerning future international journalism ventures. "The Post will explore all options for international journalistic outlets, including possible arrangements with newspapers and other technologies for delivering Post news."