Sale of Riverside paper to Kushner fails to close

A.H. Belo Corp. announced today that its deal to sell the Riverside Press-Enterprise to Aaron Kushner's Freedom Communications did not close Friday as scheduled. Dallas-based Belo "is pursuing multiple options," says a story in Kushner's Orange County Register. He disputes the Belo version of events.

Aaron Kushner, chief executive and co-owner of Freedom, responded that the deal still is in the works. "We're in the process of closing," Kushner said Monday. He did not elaborate.

A.H. Belo and Freedom, owner of the Orange County Register, announced Oct. 10 that they had reached agreement on the sale of the Riverside newspaper for $27.25 million.
The deal initially was expected to close in mid-October, a deadline that was extended to Friday after Freedom agreed to make a $1 million nonrefundable deposit.

A.H. Belo said in Monday’s statement that the company is weighing three options: closing the current deal with Freedom, pursuing legal action against Freedom to enforce the terms of the purchase agreement and exploring an alternative transaction with other interested parties.

That sounds a lot like status quo, but I guess we should wait and see. When the deal was first announced in October, Mark Lacter wrote at LA Biz Observed: "Here's the first big indication that Freedom Communications and its CEO, Aaron Kushner, have designs on the Southern California market that go beyond the flagship OC Register."

Former shareholders in Freedom Communications had already alleged that Kushner has wrongly held back $17 million from the 2012 purchase deal that put him in charge of the Register. He says they defrauded him on the deal.

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