YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) _ The Yakima Herald-Republic will be sold to The Seattle Times Co., executives of the newspapers said Monday.

An agreement in principle was reached with Garden State Newspapers of Houston for a cash purchase of complete interest, Times President H. Mason Sizemore said.

Both newspaper groups are privately owned and a sale price was not disclosed.

The Yakima Herald-Republic is central Washington's largest newspaper, with a circulation of 40,000 daily and 43,000 on Sundays. The morning newspaper has about 170 employees.

''The Seattle Times Co. has been in the market to purchase a well-run Northwest daily newspaper for many years,'' Sizemore told a gathering of employees.

Times publisher Frank Blethen ''is pleased to bring ownership of the Herald-Republic back to Washington,'' Sizemore said.

William Dean Singleton, chief executive officer of Garden State, said the newspaper he purchased in 1986 had not been for sale.

''While we had no intentions of selling the Herald-Republic ... we accepted the unsolicited offer from The Seattle Times Co. because it was an attractive financial package for us,'' Singleton said in a news release. ''We know that our newspaper and its very able staff will be in excellent hands in the years ahead.''

Proceeds from the sale will be used to reduce long-term debt and to buy additional properties, Singleton said.

The Yakima newspaper has been sold twice in the past two decades, and each time the Times was not aware it was available, Sizemore said.

''We've been writing him (Singleton) letters for six years,'' Sizemore said.

A contact in October interested Singleton, Sizemore said.

The deal is ''90 percent'' done, requiring only the completion of accounting and environmental reviews, and federal government approval, Sizemore said. The purchase is to be completed by Dec. 31.

No management changes are planned, he said.

Publisher Jim Barnhill also said no changes are planned in staffing.

''I'm real excited by the Times,'' Barnhill said. The Times will make available additional staff training resources, as well as stories from places like Olympia and Washington, D.C., that will improve news coverage for Herald- Republic readers, he said.

''This is a good newspaper with a good reputation and our association with the Times can only continue to build on that,'' Barnhill said.

The Seattle Times Co. publishes the state's largest newspaper, and also owns the Walla Walla, Wash., Union-Bulletin and three weeklies in Seattle suburbs.

While advertising revenues of newspapers in other parts of the country have been hurt by the recession, the Herald-Republic is performing above projections, thanks to a strong local economy, Barnhill said.

Garden State Newspapers publishes daily and weekly newspapers in several states.

The Herald-Republic was founded and for decades owned by the Robertson family of Yakima. Harte-Hanks Communications Inc. purchased the newspaper in 1972, and sold to Singleton in 1986.