Boston Herald files for bankruptcy protection to pursue sale

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The parent company of the Boston Herald filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday and will look to sell the newspaper to Gatehouse Media LLC, a move that underscores the hard times facing traditional print journalism.

Publisher and owner Patrick Purcell broke the news personally to the newspaper’s staff and said in a letter to employees that a court-supervised sale was the best option for the Boston Herald, which traces its roots to 1846, to stay in business.

“All I ever wanted to do was keep the Boston Herald alive,” Purcell said in the letter, according to the newspaper’s report of the sale and the bankruptcy filing. “And it is with this pending sale that I am able to do that in these difficult newspapering times.”

“I am certain this is the best pathway forward for you and for the newspaper we have nurtured together, in my case, for the last 33 years,” said Purcell.

The sale to Gatehouse, which publishes daily and weekly newspapers in Massachusetts, is pending court approval. Financial details were not disclosed.

Parent Boston Herald Inc and Gatehouse were not immediately available for comment.

The Boston Herald’s report on the sale and bankruptcy filing noted the tabloid had been “hindered like many other newspapers with significant pension and retirement liabilities as well as declining revenue with the onset of digital media and a growing variety of news originators and aggregators.”

Purcell bought the newspaper in the 1990s from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. At its peak in 2000, it had about 900 employees. Now it has 240 employees, with more than half working in the newsroom.

The Boston Herald, which has a circulation of 64,500, said it will publish as usual as its parent company pursues the sale.

Boston Herald Inc filed for protection from its creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. The company’s Chapter 11 petition indicated it has between 200 and 999 creditors and estimated assets and liabilities each between $10 million and $50 million.

Reporting by Jim Christie, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien