Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

In the absence of a higher bid, Bend’s century-old daily newspaper and a sister paper covering Redmond will be sold to an investor group for $2.25 million.

The offer by Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers Inc. was disclosed in a court filing Friday by The Bulletin’s parent company, Western Communications, which is selling all of its assets through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A hearing is scheduled for July 29. Competing bids, which must exceed the offer by at least $100,000, are due July 15.

Western Communications Chairwoman Betsy McCool said she’s confident that RISN will take a close look at the operations of The Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman before making any changes.

“They’re newspaper people,” McCool said. “They’re not guys who are just going in to gut things.”

RISN executive Steven Malkowich did not respond to a request for comment. The company is a subsidiary of Horizon Publications Inc., which is based in Canada. Horizon does not maintain a website or publicize its corporate structure.

“They’ve got different investors doing different things,” McCool said.

Through various entities, Malkowich has spearheaded the acquisition of several newspapers in the West, including the Bakersfield Californian. RISN also wants to buy Western Communications’ newspaper in Sonora, California, The Union Democrat.

“The real key question is are these long-term owners who plan to make prudent investments and keep a strong enough newsroom to create a knowledgeable local product,” said Ken Doctor, a media analyst based in Santa Cruz, California.

Doctor said he has not followed Horizon, but small newspaper chains seem to be pursuing a different strategy than companies like Gannett, which have cut products in half and doubled the price. “It’s not working out,” Doctor said of those strategies.

The Bulletin’s daily circulation averages 16,865, and the Spokesman’s is 2,000.

Bendbulletin.com claims more than 1.2 million page views from 420,000 unique monthly visitors.

RISN’s bid for The Bulletin and Spokesman does not include any real estate. Debt from the headquarters and printing plant at 1777 SW Chandler Ave. helped push Western Communications into bankruptcy for a second time in January.

“This will allow us now to get out and really start marketing the building,” McCool said.

The sale of the newspaper and other assets will benefit the company’s main creditor, Sandton Credit Solution Master Fund III LP. The company’s debt is approximately $29 million.

McCool’s late father, Robert Chandler, bought The Bend Bulletin in 1953 from Robert Sawyer. The title was later changed to The Bulletin.

The newspaper has existed since the early 1900s and has been a daily publication since 1916.

The Bulletin and Spokesman employ 117 people.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com