Gary A. Warner
The Bulletin

A Bend real estate investment couple is the sole bidder for The Bulletin’s headquarters property, with an offer of $13.25 million in cash — nearly $7 million less than the original asking price.

Next Development Group submitted its bid to purchase the 86,394-square-foot building on nearly 10 acres in ­August. The court-mandated deadline for additional bids was 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“There were no more bids — we expect to close by the end of the month,” said attorney Michael Fletcher, who represents Western Communications.

According to the Oregon secretary of state’s corporations division records, Next Development Group is managed by the Kent Family Trust, which lists Bradley R. Kent and Melissa J. Kent of Bend as trustees.

John Sorlie, a Bend attorney representing Next Development, said Wednesday the group isn’t discussing its plan for the property.

The building was originally put up for sale in February 2017 with an asking price of $20 million for the building and 2.5 acres of vacant land. Western Communications, the former parent company of The Bulletin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January this year.

Fletcher said more details will be released later this week on the sale and how much of Western Communication’s outstanding debt will be covered. Western Communications’ original bankruptcy filing showed it owed $29.1 million. The company has sold its newspapers and most of its property in Oregon and California to pay down the debt.

Federal bankruptcy court Judge Trish M. Brown in Portland must approve the deal. A hearing is scheduled for Monday to review the offer.

The Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman newspapers were sold to a partnership between EO Media Group and local investors for $3.65 million on July 29. The purchase did not include the newspaper properties. The Central Oregon Media Group was created to manage The Bulletin and Spokesman.

Western Communications retained ownership of the newspaper’s real estate. Court documents list the Bulletin building as the company’s largest asset. It was most recently listed at an asking price of $18 million.

The Kent’s largest previously reported transaction in the Bend area was the January 2014 purchase of the former Fuqua Homes factory. Another Kent-run entity, Murray Road I LLC purchased the 125,000-square-foot industrial space for $2.7 million, down from the original asking price of $4 million. The Bulletin at the time reported that Murray Road I LLC, was formed in December 2013 by Kent — described as a hedge fund manager. The story said Kent was co-founder and managing partner of Stadium Capital Management, which had 12% ownership in Big 5 Sporting Goods, among its other holdings.

Melissa Kent is on the board of directors of the Deschutes Land Trust. A short biography on the trust’s website says the couple moved to Bend in 2003. The biography says she holds an MBA from Harvard University and is the retired chief financial officer of a private investment firm. State campaign finance records show Bradley Kent contributed $5,000 to the unsuccessful 2018 campaign for governor of then-Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend. Kent also supported Adam Bledsoe’s unsuccessful 2017 campaign for a director’s position on the Bend Park & Recreation District. Bledsoe is a broker with Compass Commercial Real Estate Services, one of the brokers hired by Western Communications.

The building’s sale includes a two-year lease with Central Oregon Media Group. The building’s buyer can terminate the lease earlier by giving The Bulletin a minimum of 180-days notice. The Bulletin’s KBA Comet Web Press must be removed by the end of November, under the deal. Central Oregon Media Group plans to sell the presses, and printing will shift to a press operation in Prineville owned by the Pamplin Media Group.

Bulletin Publisher Heidi Wright said the newspaper is waiting to hear about plans for the property following the official sale.

The Bulletin property on Chandler Avenue is zoned for mixed-urban use, which would allow for high-density commercial or residential development.

Western Communication’s real estate brokers sent information through their client databases to 2,000 potential buyers. The brokers reported they had follow-up contact with 75 potential buyers, with 39 receiving due diligence documentation.

The “brochure” for the property on the website of Western Communication’s other broker, CBRE, emphasized the development possibilities.

“The Bend Bulletin building represents a unique opportunity to control a large block of quality product in a low vacancy, land constrained market with limited supply,” the brochure says. “The property has a land coverage ratio of just 20%, offering significant development potential with favorable zoning and a highly desirable location near many of Bend’s most sought-after amenities.”

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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