Freedom Communications, the parent of the East Valley Tribune, said Wednesday a letter of intent has been finalized for the sale of the operating assets and liabilities of the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper to Boulder, Colo.-based Thirteenth Street Media.
Thirteenth Street Media, whose president, Randy Miller, has an extensive newspaper background, owns The Explorer, a 50,000-circulation free-distribution weekly covering north suburban Tucson, and the Telluride (Colo.) Daily Planet, a free-distribution daily.
Miller said the East Valley Tribune, like the Explorer, would focus on "being the essential source of local news and advertising."
The Explorer is printed by the East Valley Tribune. Beyond that synergy, Miller said the acquisition is a good fit because both papers share a free-circulation business model and a similar approach to suburban coverage.
Miller said he expects to retain "a substantial number" of East Valley Tribune employees.
Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom said its next step will be to seek approval of the sale from a federal bankruptcy judge who is overseeing Freedom's reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Freedom announced in early November that it intended to close the Tribune by Dec. 31 unless a buyer for the newspaper emerged. On Friday, the company announced that a buyer had come forward but didn't identify who.
The agreement was facilitated by the newspaper brokerage firm of Dirks Van Essen & Murray.
According to online sources, Thirteenth Street Media has been involved with several small Colorado newspapers and expanded to Arizona by acquiring The Explorer in late 2007.
Miller was the former owner and publisher of the free-circulation Colorado Daily in Boulder before leaving the paper in 2007, according to the Denver Business Journal.
The 117-year-old Colorado Daily originated as an on-campus newspaper at the University of Colorado before ending its affiliation with the university in 1971. Miller bought the paper in 2001 after the previous owner filed for Chapter 11 protection. He sold it to E.W. Scripps in 2005 but remained as publisher until 2007, the Business Journal said.
About the same time he left the Colorado Daily, Miller's Thirteenth Street Media acquired The Explorer.
The Explorer covers Marana, Oro Valley and northwest Tucson and has won numerous journalism awards from the Arizona Newspaper Association and the Arizona Press Club, according to The Explorer's Web site.
The weekly newspaper is distributed Wednesdays to nearly 50,000 households in the northwest Tucson area.
In May, Miller donated the Silverton Standard & the Miner, a small newspaper in southwest Colorado with a circulation of about 1,000, to the San Juan County Historical Society rather than close it, according to an article in The Denver Post.
Miller bought it, the Telluride Daily Planet and another small Colorado newspaper - the Norwood Post - in 2008, The Denver Post said.