Three Bids For The Honolulu Star-Bulletin Mean It’s A Tug Of War For Jobs

An eleventh-hour savior may emerge for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin after all, sources report, though this may not mean good news for the employees of the Star-Bulletin.

After Oahu Publications bought the much-larger Honolulu Advertiser from Gannett, owner David Black said he would try to sell the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. If a buyer couldn’t be found, he would merge the two papers, resulting in layoffs (indeed, the Star-Bulletin has already announced it’s cutting 150 jobs regardless of whether the sale goes through).

To avoid the antitrust issues that come with merging two competing papers in the same market, Oahu Publications has to try to sell the Star-Bulletin, a money-losing paper that competes with not only the larger Advertiser but the state’s largest alt-weekly. E&P’s blog Fits & Jen said that Oahu Publications was just “going through the motions” of trying to find a buyer (including taking out a one-inch classified in the Wall Street Journal), because who would really want to buy an albatross like that?

Here’s the kicker: at least three people, apparently.

State Senator Sam Slom and Malia Zimmerman, business partners, envision a lean, investigative publication that could be either for-profit or non-profit.

Frederick “Derick” Harris
, an entrepreneur, may be seeking to take the paper fully online.

And Texas businessman Brian Ferguson, who told the Star-Bulletin that he’d always wanted to own a newspaper, submitted a bid for both the Bulletin and MidWeek, a free alt-weekly that, uh, isn’t for sale.

A sale doesn’t necessarily save jobs. If the papers merge, Oahu Publications plans to lay off “most” of the larger Advertiser staff and the Star-Bulletin folks will keep their jobs. If the papers don’t merge, the Advertiser staff will probably be okay for now, while the new owner of the Star-Bulletin will likely want to gut the paper to restore profitability.

So now Honolulu’s newspapers find themselves in sort of a tug of war for jobs, in which only one side can win.