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N.Y. Times to Own Int. Herald Trib

October 22, 2002

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PARIS (AP) _ Hoping to extend its voice abroad, The New York Times is assuming sole ownership of the Paris-based International Herald-Tribune by buying out the Washington Post’s partnership stake, executives said Tuesday.

The Times and the Post have equally shared ownership of the Herald Tribune since 1991.

The 115-year-old English-language paper, with a readership from Spain to Lebanon to Japan, has been hit by a global advertising slump in the past two years. But a spokeswoman at the Post said the decision to sell was difficult.

``We had hoped to be a part of the IHT for many years to come, but under the terms of our partnership, The New York Times left us little choice, and we reluctantly agreed to sell,″ said Ann McDaniel, vice president of human resources for The Washington Post Co.

Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis, however, said the sale had been reached by mutual agreement of the Times and Post. Details of the partnership agreement and sales terms were not made public, but Mathis said the Times approached the Post about the sale of its stake earlier in 2002.

``The Times has done a number of things over the years to expand its content so certainly this is a way in which we can become a stronger international print voice,″ Mathis said. ``We also believe that the IHT will benefit from operating with single parent.″

The transfer of ownership should take place by the end of the year or early next year, the Herald Tribune’s executive editor, David Ignatius, said. Details and legal issues are still being worked out.

Mathis said no job cuts or changes in operation or management were expected. The paper prints articles from the Post, the Times and its own correspondents. It has a staff of 250.

The Herald Tribune says it is still waiting for details on exactly what will happen to the paper and its staff, in both the short and long term. There were questions about whether the headquarters could at some point shift from Paris.

``I hope The New York Times will respect the paper’s traditions, its dedicated employees and its many thousands of loyal readers around the world,″ Ignatius said.

``Part of the IHT’s strength is that it is an international newspaper based in Paris with its own voice and traditions,″ Ignatius said. ``We may speak with an American accent, but we are truly an international paper.″

Founded in Paris in 1887, the newspaper has played an international role in a city considered by many to be the world’s cultural capital.

Its predecessor, the New York Herald Tribune, was immortalized in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 movie ``Breathless,″ with Jean Seberg playing a gamine young American hawking the paper on the Champs-Elysees.

In 1987, the paper dedicated a monument in the shape of the Statue of Liberty’s torch to Paris as a sign of French-American friendship. The monument, near the tunnel where Princess Diana died, has become her de facto memorial and is covered with cards and flowers.

The Herald Tribune is distributed worldwide. Though it’s a mainstay with American business travelers, less than half its readers _ and probably less than 40 percent _ are American, Ignatius says.

Circulation last year was 264,000. Readership has not been a problem, but advertising revenues worldwide started slumping in April 2001 and got worse after Sept. 11, Ignatius said.

He also pointed out that the Times has been trying to raise its profile abroad.

``We think that rather than owning half of a great global newspaper, (the Times) wants to be a great global newspaper,″ Ignatius said.

In April, for example, the respected French daily Le Monde started publishing a 12-page weekly supplement of Times articles _ in English.

The development was widely commented on, especially in a country known for its impassioned protection of its language. Many at the Paris newspaper complained that the Times had invaded its home turf.

``We didn’t like that _ we thought that was a competitive problem,″ Ignatius said.

``I fear that we were becoming a nuisance for the Times,″ he said. ``We weren’t sending them any profits at the end of the year, but we were sort of in their way as they try to experiment with international possibilities.″

Both the Post and the Times have had a stake in the paper since the mid-1960s, when they shared control with Whitney Communications. They bought Whitney out in 1991.

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