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SUNNIER TIMES NEW OWNER IS GOOD NEWS

By Published on .

Conrad Black's $180 million purchase of the Chicago Sun-Times Co. has given his Hollinger Inc. just the U.S. flagship to gain quick public and Wall Street recognition.

Analysts say Mr. Black's only immediate change could be to boost the daily 35 cent price of the 535,793-circulation tabloid by a dime and use the U.S.' No. 11 daily to interest Wall Street in next month's public stock offering of his American Publishing Co.

Down the road, however, the purchase may put the Sun-Times in better position to compete with the rival 690,842-circulation Chicago Tribune, which has a daily 50 cent price.

"They are good newspaper operators," said Andrew McCreath, an analyst with Gordon Capital in Toronto. "This will change the competitive environment in Chicago."

Analysts say the purchase (which also includes the Sun-Times Co.'s suburban Chicago weeklies and semi-weeklies) fills a key U.S. need for Mr. Black. Though Vancouver-based American Publishing owns 280 newspapers in the U.S., their small circulations haven't given the publishing company front-page attention on the financial press.

Hollinger is better known for its turnarounds of the Daily Telegraph in London and the Jerusalem Post, and its unsuccessful attempt to purchase the New York Daily News.

The Sun-Times, though lagging the Tribune in total circulation, leads in city of Chicago daily circulation, 268,372 to 177,845. But the Tribune's advantage in both total and suburban circulation has helped it get the lion's share of ad revenue.

Larry Perrotto, president-ceo of American Publishing, said his company believes the Sun-Times has a good future. "We think [the Sun-Times and Tribune] are two different publications, and the Sun-Times has a very strong franchise," he said.

Mr. Perrotto said Hollinger was impressed with Sun-Times management, including publisher Sam McKeel, editor Dennis Britton and general manager Michael J. Veitch, and has no plans for any changes.

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