Black Press buys Big Island and Washington newspapers

HONOLULU – The owner of Hawaii’s largest newspaper bought two daily publications on Hawaii’s Big Island and several newspapers in Washington state.

Oahu Publications, which owns the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, said Wednesday that it is buying West Hawaii Today and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald from Las Vegas-based Stephens Media.

Oahu Publications, a subsidiary of Black Press, also owns The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai.

The purchase of The Daily World of Aberdeen, Wash., and three weeklies by another Black Press subsidiary closed Wednesday. The Hawaii sale closes Dec. 1.

The chain now owns nearly all the daily newspapers in Hawaii, except for The Maui News. Rick O’Connor, CEO of Black Press, said he’s not involved in any discussions to buy that newspaper.

“I never rule anything out, but right now we’re focusing on taking the two daily newspapers and integrating them with our business,” O’Connor said in an interview.

Black Press plans to continue printing both Hawaii newspapers on the Big Island. There are no planned staffing changes in Hawaii right now, he said.

“It would be really premature to talk about anything like that, because we just announced the transaction, and we have two months to close,” O’Connor said.

The newspapers owned by Black Press have a collective daily circulation of about 300,000 after the sale, O’Connor said.

In Washington, Black Press is considering returning the Aberdeen newspaper to publication five days a week, instead of its current three-day publication schedule, O’Connor said.

“I don’t think cutting back editions of the paper is a way to bring back customers,” O’Connor said. “We found that in Kauai where we went from six days to seven days. Customers were really excited about that.”

Black Press now owns about 45 newspapers in Western Washington, O’Connor said.

Stephens Media and Black Press had co-owned the website hawaii.com, but Stephens sold its interest in the website as part of the deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“While we have appreciated the opportunity to serve these wonderful markets for a number of years, we concluded that they were no longer a strategic fit for Stephens Media,” said Ed Moss, Stephens Media CEO, in a statement.

O’Connor says Hawaii and Washington have been growth areas for the company. Both Hawaii papers will continue as dailies, he said.