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Journal Register Co. plans initial public stock offering

March 18, 1997

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ The Journal Register Company plans to sell up to $172.5 million worth of common stock in an initial public offering as part of the newspaper publisher’s effort to reduce debt and finance further expansion.

The seven-year-old chain, which disclosed the plan Monday, owns The Trentonian of Trenton, the New Haven (Conn.) Register, its flagship newspaper, and 16 other U.S. dailies with a combined daily circulation of 556,000. It also operates 118 non-daily publications, with a total distribution of 2.7 million, clustered in Connecticut, Ohio, central New England, greater St. Louis and the Philadelphia area.

``There has not been a public offering in newspapers for a while,″ said publishing analyst Ed Atorino at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York.

But, Atorino added, ``They’re just joining what’s been a very long and active parade.″ He said there are already about eight publicly owned newspaper companies in the nation.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it would use proceeds from the stock sale to repay debt. The filing lists total long-term debt of approximately $601 million.

New York investment and venture banking firm E.M. Warburg, Pincus & Co. has owned most of of the Journal Register Company since 1990, when it was created by the breakup of its debt-heavy predecessor, Princeton-based Ingersoll Publications Co. Robert M. Jelenic, who had been president of the U.S. newspaper companies operated by Ingersoll, became chief executive officer of the new company, which soon moved its headquarters to Trenton and changed its name.

Ingersoll’s then-CEO Ralph Ingersoll II, who had built up his U.S. newspaper empire during a five-year, $1 billion acquisition spree financed through junk bonds issued by the now-defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., left to focus on several newspapers still under his control in Europe.

After some Journal Register properties restructured debt in 1992 and 1993, the company began its own expansion, acquiring six daily newspapers, 52 non-dailies (local weeklies and shopper publications), three commercial printing operations and a software development business, Integrated Newspaper Systems of Trenton.

The chain’s newspapers focus closely on local news and sports, and offer colorful graphics in the what company terms ``reader-friendly″ packages. Except for one tabloid, The Trentonian, the daily papers are all broadsheets. The weekly newspapers include the St. Louis Suburban Journals, which has the largest weekly distribution of any U.S. group, 1.6 million.

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