No immediate or significant changes are expected at the Star Tribune if the newspaper is purchased by Glen Taylor, according to the paper's publisher and CEO Michael Klingensmith.
Taylor, a Minnesota native and billionaire owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx basketball teams, is working on a deal to buy the paper. The proposed deal was announced to the newspaper's staff on Tuesday.
Taylor has not revealed how much he has offered to pay for the newspaper.
"I think it's going to be really beneficial for our company to have a long-term owner who has a longer investment horizon and who, frankly, is looking proactively at helping us continue to rebound and grow our business," Klingensmith said in a Wednesday interview with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Klingensmith said Taylor has asked the management and the board to stay, and that there are no layoffs planned.
"I think we've had a pretty stable workforce here over the last four years. And certainly our newsroom today is actually a little bigger than it was four years ago, and there's an appreciation that in particular that newsroom is the engine that drives our business," Klingensmith said. "And there's no layoffs and there's no downsizing envisioned. It's not that kind of a purchase."
The paper filed for bankruptcy in 2009. However, Klingensmith said the paper is on a steady financial track.
"We have pretty substantially paid down the debt that we had at emergence from bankruptcy," he said. "The exact numbers are private, but it is substantially paid down."
Wayzata Investment Partners has been the newspaper's largest shareholder for the last four years. The firm took over following the newspaper's Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.
"Certainly it was well-known to us from all the way back to our emergence from our restructuring, that ultimately we would have to find long-term ownership for the newspaper," Klingensmith said.
Taylor is not interested in purchasing other media properties, Klingensmith said about his conversations with Taylor. "He's interested in this one because it's a Minnesota institution."
The newspaper business is not necessarily a bad one to be in right now, Klingensmith said.
"I think that rumors of the demise of newspapers, as they say, is somewhat exaggerated," he said. "I think it's like any consolidation. The strongest are going to prevail. And I think that frankly, some newspapers have been a little quick to abandon the investment in their printed product, and charge headlong into digital.
"We've taken a more measured approach of actually balancing our digital but also investing back in our print. And that's paid benefits to us because we have been able to maintain our overall circulation and maintain our healthy print circulation -- which at the moment is still the engine that drives profitability."
Klingensmith said he doesn't think Taylor's other ownerships would color coverage of the Timberwolves, or that Taylor's Republican ideology would influence editorial decisions.
"We've talked about this and he has really no intention to ... have a day-to-day presence or influence over the paper," Klingensmith said. "He respects the independence of the newsroom, and so we don't think a reader is going to really see any change in the public posture of the Star Tribune."
Media analyst Ken Doctor, appearing on The Daily Circuit, said he expected Taylor to abide by his promise not to interfere with the newspaper's management or journalism.
"The line that people need to care about and readers care about is: Will the journalism stay intact? Will it not be favored for commercial interest?" Doctor said. "And I think smart businesspeople like Taylor ... understand that line. And again, with the economy pointing forward, it should be a good couple of years. Those questions have to be watched ... Glen Taylor will certainly say the right things, [like] 'I won't interfere,' and probably won't.
"But both the journalists working at the Star Tribune and all the other media watchers in the Twin Cities will be watching closely. The thing to remember is that it is the integrity of a news source, of a high-end news source like the Star Tribune, that really brings a lot of value to its business, to its advertisers. So it would be shortsighted to try to change coverage of a Taylor business, when in fact that news would get out and that would damage the brand of the Star Tribune, and damage the business."
The deal could be completed within 60 days.
"We have no reason to think it won't," Klingensmith said. "We're all very excited about the prospect of Glen's ownership."