BUSINESS

A new voice for business

PATRICIA BEST October 12 1987
BUSINESS

A new voice for business

PATRICIA BEST October 12 1987

A new voice for business

BUSINESS

The idea had been debated and discarded several times over the past three years. But on Sept. 23, when the Maclean Hunter Ltd. (MH) board met on the day of the company's 100th anniversary, the directors approved a bold plan to make their 80-year-old weekly business newspaper, The Financial Post, a daily. Then, late last week, a second key element fell into place when the board of the Toronto

Sun Publishing Corp.-owned 53.6 per cent by MH-approved the purchase of the Post for $46 million. The union of the venerable Post with the flamboyant Sun organization, whose Sun newspa pers in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton feature scantily clad Sunshine Girls, will produce a new business daily that will appear on the streets early next year. Declared Sun Publishing president

Douglas Creighton:

“We’re going to be The Wall Street Journal of Canada in tabloid.”

The appearance of the new publication is likely to spark an intensive fight for readers and advertisers in media-heavy Toronto. The weekly Financial Post will still be published in the larger, broadsheet format and mailed to subscribers across Canada. The Sun organization is counting on delivering the new daily to the homes and

offices of affluent readers in and around Toronto in order to capitalize on the city's booming financial industry. It will go head-to-head with T1u~ Globe and Mail's well-established Report on Busi ness, which dominates that market. De clared MH senior vice-president for Ca nadian publishing James Warrillow: "What people want is a paper with an opinion that's pro-business." Added Creighton, who says that the paper will

also be easy to read: “There’s a market out there that the Globe has kind of abandoned.” But, declared Globe managing editor Geoffrey Stevens, noting that the Sun will continue to publish the established weekly while it launches the new tabloid daily, “it looks as though they are not quite convinced.”

Certainly the marriage of the Post and the Sun organization provides sev-

eral advantages. The Sun already prints the weekly Post, but it still has excess press capacity, and it can easily print the Post each evening before the Sun’s pressrun starts at 11:30 p.m. As well, Creighton has a track record for starting new papers—he was instrumental in launching The Toronto Sun almost overnight after the Toronto Telegram folded in 1971, and he has since opened the sister Suns in Alberta. For its part, the

Post has the necessary computer facilities and business news expertise. Publisher Neville Nankivell and editor John Godfrey are to continue in their positions, but the Post will have to add an estimated 50 to 70 people to its 135member editorial staff.

The new paper will have a minimum size of 48 tabloid pages, and half of the editorial content will be small-print stock market tables and similar business and financial information. The cover price is still undecided, but it is likely to be either 25 or 50 cents. Creighton said that initial circulation will be about 60,000. He added, “We can be profitable with a small circulation if it is the circulation that the advertisers want.” The problem, he said, will be delivering the paper to a select, affluent readership that is scattered across Metropolitan Toronto and into dozens of suburbs. It will be evident within six to eight months after publication begins whether the venture can be successful, he said.

When the deal closes on Dec. 31, the Sun organization will pay the purchase price of $46 million, with shares issued from its treasury. That in turn will increase MH’s ownership position in Sun Publishing to 57.3 per cent from 53.6 per cent. But beyond that, the Sun company is investing relatively little in the new venture. Susan Scully, a financial analyst who watches media stocks for brokers McLeod Young Weir Ltd. of Toronto, said that, although an earlier plan by MH to produce a daily Post on its own was estimated to cost $20 million to $30 million, the current proposal would barely affect the Sun’s corporate earnings even if it lost money for the first two years. The sale of the Financial Post division will reduce MH’s net income by as much as $2.3 million, although the company’s increased ownership of the Sun would partly offset that.

For the Sun, the opportunity to buy the Post became more attractive after it sold The Houston Post for a profit of $45 million last month. One source close to the Sun explained that the sale of the troubled subsidiary allowed senior Sun managers to devote their energies to the Post venture. And, indeed, final negotiations between the Sun and MH began in earnest less than a month ago. But Creighton told Maclean's that it was Canadian financier and newspaper magnate Conrad Black, who has widely promoted the idea of a daily Canadian business paper, who proposed the idea of a Sun-owned daily business journal several months ago—and laid the groundwork with MH for the Sun’s acquisition of the Post. For business readers, the fruits of that suggestion will be closely scrutinized in the months ahead.

-PATRICIA BEST with THERESA TEDESCO in Toronto

THERESA TEDESCO