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Forum Communications not interested in Star Tribune

Speculation has surfaced in recent days that the financially distressed Minneapolis Star Tribune could be sold to one of several buyers, including Forum Communications Co. (the parent company of this newspaper), which publishes The Forum in Fargo, N.D.

"Not true," William C. Marcil, chief executive officer of Forum Communications, said Thursday. "We are not interested in buying the Minneapolis Star Tribune or St. Paul Pioneer Press, period."

The Forum was mentioned as a possible Star Tribune buyer in a column that appeared Wednesday in the online newspaper Since then, other news organizations have called Forum Communications to inquire about the possibility.

MinnPost media columnist David Brauer wrote about the Star Tribune's mounting financial woes, including more rounds of staff layoffs, and said a firm hired to help restructure the newspaper, Blackstone Group, is a "heavyweight dealmaker" and therefore might be seeking buyers.

Brauer went on to list possible suitors, including Media News, Gannett, Hearst Corp., and Forum Communications, which also owns multiple Minnesota daily newspapers, including the Duluth News Tribune, and 18 weeklies in the state.

It's flattering to be mentioned along with some major media organizations, Marcil said, adding, "I think this indicates we've become a pretty big player in Minnesota."

The possibility Forum Communications was eyeing the Star Tribune also came up in a conversation Wednesday when Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., met with The Forum's editorial board. Marcil's answer: an emphatic "no."

The Star Tribune plans to cut up to 25 newsroom jobs through buyouts or layoffs.

In a memo obtained by MinnPost, Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes told employees on Thursday that both union employees and some managers will get the buyout offers.

"My hope is that we'll have the details of the program available well before Christmas so that staff members can have enough time to decide if they want to apply for the buyout," Barnes wrote. "Unfortunately, if we do not get the buyouts we seek, there are likely to be some layoffs in January."

The note to the newspaper's employees came two days after publisher Chris Harte told all Star Tribune employees that it was asking the company's labor unions to agree to $20 million in cuts by mid-January.

The $20 million would be in addition to $10 million in cuts the company said it has already started to implement. Harte said the cuts are needed as the company negotiates its long-term debt with creditors and that without them, the newspaper could face bankruptcy.