The fastest-growing newspaper chain in the country now owns both the Times-Standard and the Tri-City Weekly.

MediaNews Group, a privately held corporation headed by newspaper magnate W. Dean Singleton of Denver, Colo., bought the Times-Standard in 1996 from Thomson Newspapers Inc. and announced last month that it has purchased the 46,000 free circulation Tri-City Weekly from Owner-Publisher Ron Pileggi.

MediaNews is the nation's seventh largest newspaper network and third largest among those privately held. Singleton now controls 33 dailies (total circulation, 1.5 million) and 106 paid weeklies and free papers (combined circulation about 2 million) across 11 states, according to Editor and Publisher magazine.

"They wanted the Tri-City Weekly because of our relationship with the community," Pileggi said. "Our attitude has always been to serve, serve, serve.

"I think the Times-Standard is going to become a better newspaper because of the acquisition of the Tri-City Weekly."

The sale was a total stock purchase. Pileggi, who has agreed to a one-year contract to remain as publisher, said all 50 Tri-City employees will be retained.

The Tri-City was founded in 1971 by members of the Gospel Outreach Christian Center, a religious commune at the Lighthouse Ranch on Table Bluff. Pileggi began working as a sales representative for the publication in 1976 and was part of a group of 10 people who formed a corporation to buy the Tri-City in 1977.

"That was the year the federal government gave the church tax-exempt status on the agreement that they get rid of all businesses," Pileggi said. "It went up for sale and I was sales manager at the time."

In 1983 Pileggi and partner George Vaughn bought out the other eight owners and in 1991 Pileggi purchased Vaughn's stock.

The Times-Standard and the Tri-City will continue as separate publications. However, some operations will be combined. The Tri-City printing will be switched to the Times-Standard press and the Times-Standard may drop its Tuesday total market coverage publication called the Times-Standard Plus, according to Pileggi.

Singleton's MediaNews, with its flagship newspaper the Denver Post, has been on a buying binge in recent years, particularly in California. It bought both the Long Beach Press-Telegram and The Los Angeles Daily News last year, completing a ring around the Los Angeles area with a total of five dailies. MediaNews also owns seven dailies clustered around San Francisco including the Oakland Tribune.

The Tri-City Weekly alliance is the latest development in a year and a half of dramatic change at the Times-Standard. Just four months after Singleton purchased the newspaper, MediaNews announced in February 1997 that it was reselling it for $42 million to Media General Inc. The sale fell through over a price dispute in April.

In May, Times-Standard Controller Lynn W. Johnson was arrested and charged with embezzlement.

In November, Publisher Steven Sosinski was replaced by current Publisher Mark Richmond. Later that month Richmond fired Managing Editor Rex Wilson after the newspaper ran a cartoon of a lap dancer astride a bar patron a commentary on the controversial owner of the Tip Top Club, Tom "Great" Razooly. (Award-winning cartoonist Hugh "Igor" Dalton, who now pens cartoons for The Journal, was also terminated.) Wilson was replaced by current Editor David Little in March.

Richmond said he was "very pleased" with the Times-Standard's alliance with Tri-City.

"Ron built a good company," he said. "The plan is to market (the two publications) individually.

"Ron has agreed to stay. Both he and I, as publishers, report to the same person (Scott McKibben, publisher/president of MediaNews Alameda Newspaper Group) in Alameda."




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