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Hearst Says Seattle P-I Will Either Be Sold, Close Or Go Web-Only

imageFollowing yesterday’s leak to a local TV station that Hearst Corp. was planning to sell or close the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the parent company has confirmed that it is seeking a buyer for the daily, the paper itself reported. The unidentified source who tipped off KING-TV yesterday about Hearst’s plans told the station that the company is pessimistic about finding a buyer in this dismal environment. Publicly, Hearst sees three possibilities for the Seattle P-I, which is one of only two of the city’s daily papers: it will either be sold, turned into a web-only publication or shuttered.

Steven Swartz, president of the Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division, said the paper’s losses have been escalating steadily for the past nine years. Hearst doesn’t see a turnaround any time in the near future. Addressing the paper’s newsroom on Friday, Swartz put it bluntly: “One thing is clear: at the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in print.” Hearst owns 16 daily papers across the country, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, and Albany Times Union. No word on whether Hearst is considering similar options for its other newspaper holdings.

In a release, Hearst said the Seattle P-I lost about $14 million in 2008 and its forecast anticipates a greater loss in 2009. The paper was founded in 1863 and it was acquired by Hearst in 1921. If Hearst does not find a buyer within 60 days, it will consider the two other options. It has retained investment bank Broadwater & Associates to search for a buyer.

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