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Knight Ridder, Inc.

Knight Ridder, Inc.

50 W. San Fernando Street, Suite 1500
San Jose, California 95113
U.S.A.

Telephone: (408) 938-7700
Fax: (408) 938-7766
Web site: http://www.kri.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1974 as Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc.
Employees: 18,000
Sales: $2.9 billion (2003)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: KRI
NAIC: 511110 Newspaper Publishers; 516110 Internet Publishing and Broadcasting; 519110 Newspaper Syndicates

Knight Ridder, Inc. is the second largest newspaper publisher in the United States, with 31 daily and 26 nondaily newspapers in 28 U.S. markets, including the well known and prize-winning Detroit Free Press, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and San Jose Mercury News. Knight Ridder's newspapers have won 84 Pulitzer Prizes, and its online news service with the Tribune Company has become equally respected and used by millions around the world. Second only to the Gannett Company, Inc., the U.S.'s largest newspaper publisher with more than 100 dailies (including the most widely read domestic paper, USA Today ) and 500 nondaily papers, Knight Ridder has not given up hope of one day equaling its $7 billion rival.


Two Destinies: 1890s to 1940

What is today's Knight Ridder empire began as two separate newspaper groups which merged in 1974. The Ridder group originated in 1875 with the publication of the Catholic News, based in New York City. A second publication was acquired in 1892 when Herman Ridder purchased the Staats-Zeitung, the nation's largest German-language paper, also based in New York. The Knight group began in 1903 when Charles Landon (C.L.) Knight bought the Akron Beacon Journal, in Ohio, which the company still owns. Knight soon bought two smaller Ohio newspapers, the Springfield Sun and the Massillon Independent.

Knight, considered a brilliant writer, began training his son John at an early age to replace him. John S. Knight worked as copy boy and reporter, then went to college and fought in World War I. In 1919 at age 25, he joined the Beacon Journal 's staff and became managing editor in 1925. He carefully observed the operations of better newspapers and applied his insights to the Beacon Journal. C.L. Knight died in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, leaving an estate of $515,000 and debts of $800,000 to his sons, John S. and James L. Knight. The Beacon Journal faced stiff competition from another Akron paper, the Times-Press, owned by Scripps-Howard, while the Great Depression was at its most severe. John Knight froze family earnings and took on the Times-Press, running more news and features than his competitor to win over readers. He paid off the Beacon Journal 's debts within four years, and made it Akron's leading newspaper.


John Knight's first major test as publisher came during a 1936 Akron rubber strike. Rubber was the city's major industry, and as the strike dragged on, money and advertising dried up. The Times-Press cut back on editorial pages, but Knight increased local news coverage and won readers from the Times-Press. When the strike ended, he kept the readers and won new advertising.

On October 15, 1937 John Knight became president and publisher of the Miami Herald, after purchasing it for $2.25 million. The business side of the paper had been run poorly before the Knights bought it, so James Knight, who had studied the business and production side of newspaper publishing, became operations manager. The Knights' first move was to distance the paper from the Miami political establishment, with whom it had close ties. The Herald had two competitors; the Knights soon bought one, the Miami Tribune, which had been losing money. For a cost of $600,000 plus the Massillon Independent, the Knights bought the Tribune, eliminating a competitor and acquiring the Tribune 's building, new printing press, and other equipment. Knight closed the Tribune on December 1, 1937, taking six of the paper's best people with him.

The Knights added more photographs, comics, and new columnists to the Herald. In the next two years two local storiesa kidnapping case and a controversy over pasteurized milkreceived national attention and won 14,000 new readers. Having turned the Miami Herald around, the Knights bought another paper, the Detroit Free Press, in 1940.


World War II Era Expansion: 194160

In 1941 Knight Newspapers, Inc. was incorporated in Ohio. World War II found German submarines off the Florida coast driving away tourists and the business that had supported the Herald. The paper lost much of its staff to the army, but several large military bases were set up in the Miami area, and the soldiers boosted the Herald 's circulation again. Lee Hills was brought in as news editor. He immediately recruited talented journalists from other Florida papers to make up for the staff the Herald had lost to the war effort. When a serious newsprint shortage created problems toward the end of the war, Hills and James Knight decided to cut advertising and circulation outside the Miami metropolitan area rather than editorial content, which wrested a large number of readers from its remaining competitor, the Miami News.

In 1944 the Knights bought the Chicago Daily News for $3 million and took on the paper's $12 million in debt. The Daily News had won a reputation for having the most thorough foreign news section of any Chicago paper, but John Knight found the stories too long and poorly written. He ordered the stories be more succinct, creating a brief storm of protest among some writers and readers.

The population of Dade County, Florida, nearly doubled in the years from 1940 to 1950 and the Herald 's circulation grew from 86,313 in 1941 to 175,985 in 1951. In 1946 Lee Hills began the Clipper Edition, a streamlined version of the Herald distributed in 23 Latin American countries. The paper won prestige and readership in Latin America, while the Herald 's Miami edition began to specialize in coverage of Latin America. Because of these early efforts, the paper is considered by many to have the best Latin American coverage of any U.S. newspaper.

In 1948 the Herald 's printers began a lengthy, sometimes violent strike over wages and the length of their work week. They were among the best paid printers in the country but wanted to receive the same wages for working 35 hours as they were getting for working 40. The strike dragged on, and on October 1, 1949 the paper's newsprint warehouse burned down in a mysterious fire. Because of the strike, the Herald experimented with alternative production methods and ended up with production methods years ahead of those at most other papers.

Changing Times: 195069

In 1950 the paper won its first Pulitzer Prize for fighting government corruption in southern Florida. The next year Hills became executive editor of the Herald and the Detroit Free Press. He encouraged individual style and quality writing, drawing a large number of excellent reporters and columnists from other papers. In 1955 Knight bought the Charlotte Observer, in North Carolina, and went on to purchase its rival, the Charlotte News, in 1959. In the same year, the Knights sold the Chicago Daily News to Marshall Field for $17 million.


In 1960 Knight took a gamble and built a $30 million building containing offices and printing presses for the Miami Herald. At the time it was the biggest building in Florida and the most extensive newspaper printing plant ever built. It reflected the Knights' belief that the Herald and Miamiwould continue to grow, which they did.


As the group grew larger, the Knights wanted to increase financial coordination among the newspapers. At the suggestion of Lee Hills, the Knights formed an executive committee in 1960 to undertake quarterly reviews of the operations of the Knight newspapers. They also hired finance man Alvah H. Chapman, Jr., as James Knight's assistant; he rose within ten years to be president of the Herald and executive vice-president of Knight Newspapers. He introduced computers for administration, layout, typesetting, and production; and for improving the circulation, advertising, and business departments. Chapman mandated budgeting at all Knight newspapers, which was rarely done at small and medium-sized newspapers.


Knight Newspapers began an aggressive acquisition campaign during the same period, looking for newspapers in growing cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants. The Tallahassee Democrat, in Florida, was added to the group in 1965, and in 1969 the son of Moses Annenberg (the former Miami Tribune owner who had sold his paper to the Knights), Walter Annenberg, sold the Philadelphia News and the Philadelphia Inquirer to Knight Newspapers for $55 million. Additional papers bought by Knight in 1969 continued the company's strategy of owning more than one newspaper in a market, often eliminating competition.

By the end of the 1960s Knight's combined daily circulation had risen to 2.2 million and the company made $12.7 million in profit on revenues of $162.8 million, largely on rising advertising earnings. Knight was considered a well-managed, highly profitable, and very aggressive newspaper group, although its editorial content was not always top quality. In 1969 Knight Newspapers, Inc. went public, the first offering immediately selling out at $30 a share.

Company Perspectives:

Knight Ridder is the nation's second largest newspaper publisher, with products in print and online. The company publishes 31 daily newspapers in 28 U.S. markets, with a readership of 8.7 million daily and 12.6 million Sunday. Knight Ridder also has investments in a variety of Internet and technology companies and two newsprint companies. The company's Internet operation, Knight Ridder Digital, develops and manages the company's online properties. It is the founder and operator of Real Cities (www.RealCities.com), the largest national network of city and regional Web sites in more than 100 U.S. markets. Knight Ridder and Knight Ridder Digital are headquartered in San Jose, California.

A Shift in Priorities: 1970s

Knight acquired five more dailies in 1973: the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader, both in Kentucky; the Columbus Ledger and the Columbus Enquirer, both in Georgia; and the Bradenton Herald in Florida.


Herman Ridder, founder of the Ridder group, had worked his way up through the ranks at the Staats-Zeitung after its purchase in 1892. He was a founder and president of the Associated Press and an early supporter of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, becoming its president in 1907. His sons Bernard, Joseph, and Victor bought the New York Journal of Commerce and the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press in 1927. Ridder Publications was incorporated in Delaware in 1942.


After World War II the company expanded westward in search of well-priced properties in growing markets. They bought the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Long Beach Independent, San Jose Mercury News, and the Pasadena Star News, all in California, as well as some smaller California papers; a 65 percent stake in the Seattle Times, in Washington; the Gary Post Tribune in Indiana; and radio and television station WCCO, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The San Jose Mercury News was the most profitable Ridder publication. The company bought the Boulder Daily Camera in Colorado in 1969 and the Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publishing Company of Kansas in 1973.


Ridder's 1973 earnings were $14.3 million on revenue of $166 million while Knight's 1973 earnings were $22.1 million on revenue of $341.9 million. Their merger grew out of talks between friends Lee Hills and Bernard Ridder, Jr., grandson of Herman Ridder, who were interested in expansion. Influenced by the success of the rival Gannett group, both Knight and Ridder had gone public in 1969 to raise capital for acquisitions. The groups described the potential benefits of a merger to their stockholders as "a broader and more diversified income base, greater newspaper size, mix and geographical distribution, and a stronger balance sheet." The merger was accomplished through an exchange of stock, and five Ridder representatives joined ten from Knight Newspapers, to form Knight-Ridder's board of directors.

The Knight group had focused on the South and East, while Ridder had focused on the West and Midwest. At the time of the merger Knight owned 16 dailies in seven states, while Ridder owned or had a substantial interest in 19 dailies in ten states. The Ridder dailies were all in exclusive markets, while the Knight's three largest revenue yieldersin Miami, Detroit, and Philadelphiaall faced competition. At the time of the merger Time magazine reported (July 22, 1974) that in general, "the Ridder papers do not have the heft and influence of the Knight dailies."

When the groups merged on November 30, 1974, Ridder became a wholly owned subsidiary of Knight, and the renamed Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. became the largest newspaper company in the United States with newspapers from coast to coast. The new company had 35 newspapers in 25 cities, combined circulation averaging 3.8 million daily and 4.2 million on Sunday, total assets of $465 million, and profits of $36 million. Other large companies published newspapers but were diversified, while Knight-Ridder focused on newspapers alone (both had agreed to sell noncore holdings as part of the Federal Communications Commission's conditions for merging). The new company continued to give its newspapers editorial autonomy while maintaining strict central control of business operations with papers organized into three groups along geographical lines.

In 1976 Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. became KnightRidder, Inc. Alvah H. Chapman, Jr., was elected chief executive officer succeeding Lee Hills, and Bernard H. Ridder, Jr., was elected chairman of the executive committee succeeding James L. Knight, who resigned. James Knight died in 1991 at the age of 81. John Knight also retired as editorial chairman in 1976. He died in 1981 at the age of 81. Lee Hills took his place until 1979 when he retired and Bernard H. Ridder, Jr., succeeded him.

Key Dates:

1875:

Herman Ridder begins publishing the Catholic News in New York.

1892:

Ridder buys Die Staats-Zeitung, the leading German-language newspaper in the United States.

1903:

C.L. Knight buys the Ohio-based Akron Beacon Journal.

1937:

John Knight purchases the Miami Herald.

1940:

The Detroit Free Press is added to the Knight holdings.

1941:

Knight Newspapers, Inc. is incorporated in Ohio.

1942:

Ridder Publications is incorporated in Delaware.

1950:

The Miami Herald wins its first Pulitzer Prize.

1969:

Both Knight and Ridder go public to raise funds for expansion.

1974:

Knight and Ridder merge to become Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. (the hyphen was eventually removed from the name).

1976:

The company is renamed Knight-Ridder, Inc.

1986:

Knight-Ridder acquires the South Carolina-based Star-Record Company.

1993:

The San Jose Mercury News becomes the first newspaper to go online through Web server AOL.

1998:

The company relocates its headquarters from Miami to the Silicon Valley.

2000:

Knight Ridder begins supplying Yahoo!'s server with news banners and headlines.

2004:

A Knight Ridder publication (the Miami Herald ) wins the company's 84th Pulitzer Prize.

The Perils of Diversification: 1980s

While other media companies went on newspaper-buying binges, Knight-Ridder watched from the sidelines, believing newspapers were a mature market. Knight-Ridder instead moved into other areas, buying radio stations and entering the cable television market in 1981. In addition, the company started Viewdata Corporation, which offered news and financial services on home computers. The company also moved into computer-based graphics services; the Knight-Ridder Graphics Network went online in October 1985, at first servicing only newspapers in the group. It began to offer a full-scale daily service to papers outside Knight-Ridder in 1986. Within a year it was used by 28 of the chain's newspapers and had 110 outside subscribers in North America and Europe. Subscribing newspapers paid $50 to $300 a month, depending on their circulation, for the privilege of using the system.

Viewdata, however, did not fare well and was closed in 1986 after losing $50 million. By this time Knight-Ridder returned to its roots by acquiring the six-paper State-Record Company, based in Columbia, South Carolina, for $311 million. By the later years of the decade, many felt Knight-Ridder had lost touch with its readers. Hispanics accounted for half the population of the Miami area, but only 20 percent of them read the Miami Herald. In 1986 several of the Herald 's offices were closed. The following year, the company undertook a cost-cutting campaign headed by P. Anthony Ridder, president of the newspaper division, and redesigned the Spanish version of the Miami Herald, to win Hispanic readership.


By 1988 Knight-Ridder's business information services division was growing three times as fast as its newspapers, which prompted the $353 million purchase of Dialog Information Services, Inc. The same year James Batten was appointed CEO, replacing Alvah Chapman, and Anthony (Tony) Ridder became president. In 1989, however, the company's debt approached $1 billion and Batten sold the company's broadcasting group and the Pasadena Morning Star News, netting $425 million. Still, the company was sufficiently wary of a takeover for its shareholders to vote a "quality of journalism" amendment to prevent a buyout by a media baron such as Rupert Murdoch.


New Frontiers: 1990s

Under Batten and Ridder's leadership in the early and mid-1990s, Knight-Ridder refocused on newspapers and business information services by making additional divestments. The company stayed away from costly bleeding-edge gambles similar to Viewdata, working instead to extend its core businesses. One such move was the partnership of Knight-Ridder's San Jose Mercury News and online service provider America Online (AOL) in 1993, making the Mercury News the first newspaper in the country to offer its readers an online version of its paper. The flat rate service offered news and features from the paper, advertising, and bulletin boards for messaging. A similar venture was developed for the Detroit Free Press, this time in partnership with AOL's rival CompuServe. KnightRidder hoped to have all of its papers online within a few years.

In its business information services division, Knight-Ridder was disappointed with Dialog's lackluster growth of 10 percent a year. To remedy the situation, the company adopted two strategiesgeographic growth and user growth. In 1993 it acquired Data-Star, a European online service, from the Swiss engineering company Motor-Columbus. In its first year under Knight-Ridder, Data-Star helped boost Dialog's revenue 19 percent over 1992. In 1994 the company moved into the Canadian market through a joint venture with Southam, Inc. called Infomart DIALOG. The company's three online servicesDIALOG, Data-Star, and Infomart DIALOGwere then grouped within the newly named Knight-Ridder Information, Inc. (KRII), replacing Dialog Information Services. With regard to the second strategy, KRII's services were used primarily by librarians and other information specialists who had mastered the complex and powerful software of its services. In order to expand the potential user base, KRII began to develop user-friendly interfaces for the services to attract a broader client base.

In early 1995 Tony Ridder took over as CEO and assumed the title of chairman upon Batten's death. Ridder began revamping the company, selling off its noncore assets such as the Journal of Commerce to Britain's Economist Group for $115 million and its financial newswire after it failed to compete successfully with rivals Reuters, Dow Jones, and Bloomberg Financial News. Next Knight-Ridder made another significant divestmentthis one outside the business information sectorwhen it sold its stake in TKR Cable to its partner Tele-Communications Inc. for about $420 million in cash and stock.

With the newspaper division more important than ever to Knight-Ridder's future, the company initiated a two-year, $120 million modernization of the Miami Herald 's main plant and spent $360 million to acquire four daily newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area from Lehser Communications, Inc. The acquired papers had a combined circulation of 190,000 daily and 206,000 on Sunday. In 1997 Knight-Ridder bought four additional papers from the Walt Disney Company, sold its KRII division, and decided to move its headquarters to the Silicon Valley area in San Jose, California. The move was completed in 1998, the same year Knight-Ridder joined competitors Gannett and the Tribune Company to create Classified Ventures, an online automotive and real estate classifieds service.


In 1998 Knight Ridder was recognized as a "Web pioneer" and earned the top slot on the InformationWeek 500, the IT magazine's annual poll of businesses with the most innovative use of technology. Knight Ridder had not only been the first major newspaper publisher to put one of its papers online (the San Jose Mercury News in 1993), but was also the first to get versions of all of its newspapers on the Web. Knight Ridder bested a wide range of billion-dollar firms to earn the InformationWeek honor, including rival Gannett, as well as multinational giants Coca-Cola Company, Philip Morris, and IBM.


The following year, 1999, the company formed KnightRidder.com to oversee its burgeoning online services and web operations, which included another joint venture with the Tribune Company, this one to create CareerBuilder, an online job search service. Knight Ridder finished the century with revenues topping $3.2 billion.


Frugality and Reorganization: 2000s

In the new millennium Knight Ridder continued to focus on the Internet and its ever increasing opportunities. In 2000 the company reached an agreement with Yahoo!, the huge Internet search engine, to provide banners of top news stories on its pages. The following year KnightRidder.com was renamed Knight Ridder Digital and Chairman and CEO Ridder began tightening the firm's belt, reducing its workforce and instituting cost-cutting measures across the board. By the end of the year, Knight Ridder still retained its rank as the world's second largest newspaper company, with 31 dailies in 28 U.S. markets, and readership of 8.5 million daily and 12.6 million on Sunday.

In 2003 the web-savvy Knight Ridder was struck by a virus that shut down its newspaper sites for several hours. The company's IT team, however, had the sites back online by day's end, proving why Knight Ridder's Digital unit was hitting its projections and posting strong earnings. The company finished the year with overall operating revenues of just under $2.9 billion, slightly less than the previous year due to several factors, including weaker advertising rates. Knight Ridder Digital, however, contributed a profit of $15.2 million and revenues were up 44 percent from 2002.


The following year, 2004, Knight Ridder bought Star Publications and was poised for further acquisitions should complementary businesses become available. Chief Executive Ridder, who was nearing retirement age, concentrated on leaving Knight Ridder as a publishing powerhouse in terms of both product and profit. While he had been increasingly criticized in the new century for putting profits ahead of journalistic integrity, Ridder was determined to have both. Goals for the remainder of the decade included acquiring additional newspapers in underserved areas, keeping operating costs down, and increasing national readership not only through Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism (the Miami Herald earned its 18th Pulitzer and the company its 84th in 2004), but by reaching out to younger and minority readers as well.



Principal Divisions

Aberdeen (SD) American News Company; Akron (OH) Journal Publishing Company; Belleville (IL) News-Democrat; Biloxi (MI) Sun Herald; Bradenton (FL) Herald; Charlotte (SC) Observer; Columbia (SC) State; Columbus (GA) Ledger Enquirer; Contra Costa (CA) Newspapers Inc.; Detroit (MI) Free Press; Fort Wayne (IN) News Sentinel; Duluth (MN) News Tribune; Florida Keys Keynoter; Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram; Grand Forks (ND) Herald; Kansas City Star; Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader; Macon (GA) Telegraph; Miami (FL) Herald; Monterey County (CA) Herald; Myrtle Beach (SC) Sun News; Olathe (KS) News; Philadelphia (PA) Newspapers Inc.; St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press; San Jose (CA) Mercury News Inc.; San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune; State College (PA) Centre Daily Times; Tallahassee (FL) Democrat; Wichita (KS) Eagle; Wilkes-Barre (PA) Times Leader.

Principal Operating Units

Knight Ridder Digital; Knight Ridder Shared Services; Knight Ridder/Tribune News Information Services; Knight Ridder Washington Bureau; Knight Ridder Newspaper Division.


Principal Competitors

Cox Enterprises, Inc.; Dow Jones & Company, Inc.; Gannett Company, Inc.; New York Times Company; News Corporation Ltd.; Tribune Company.


Further Reading

Brach, Abby, "InformationWeek Names Knight Ridder Most Innovative User of Technology," InformationWeek, September 16, 1998.

DeGeorge, Gail, "Knight Ridder: Running Hard, but Staying in Place," Business Week, February 26, 1996.

DeGeorge, Gail, and Veronica N. Byrd, "Knight Ridder: Once Burned, and the Memory Lingers," Business Week, April 11, 1994.

"Dynastic Ridder Clan Gathers40 Strong," Editor & Publisher, April 19, 1969.

Jones, Tim, "For Newspapers, a Bundle of Woes," Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1995, p. 1.

"Knight Ridder Will Become Largest All-Newspaper Firm," Editor & Publisher, November 16, 1974.

Leonard, Devin, "Tony Ridder Just Can't Win," Fortune, December 24, 2001, p. 99.

Moses, Lucia, "Tony Ridder Still Loves His Job," Editor & Publisher, February 1, 2004.

"Newspaper Story," Forbes, August 29, 1994, p. 284.

"Publisher Who Built Newspaper Empire Dies at 85," Knight Ridder/ Tribune News Service, May 11, 2002.

Sandoval, Ricardo, "Knight Ridder Buys Four Lesher Papers in San Francisco Bay Area," San Jose Mercury News, August 29, 1995.

Smiley, Nixon, Knights of the Fourth Estate: The Story of the Miami Herald, Miami, Fla.: E.A. Seemann Publishing, 1974.

Whited, Charles, Knight: A Publisher in the Tumultuous Century, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988.


Scott M. Lewis
updates: David E. Salamie, Nelson Rhodes

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Knight-Ridder, Inc.

Knight-Ridder, Inc.

One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132-1693
U.S.A.
(305) 376-3800
Fax: (305) 376-3875

Public Company
Incorporated: 1974 as Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc.
Employees: 21,000
Sales: $2.8 billion (1995)
Stock Exchanges: New York Frankfurt Tokyo
SICs: 2711 Newspapers: Publishing, or Publishing & Printing; 4212 Local Trucking Without Storage; 4213 Trucking, Except Local; 4899 Communication Services, Not Elsewhere Classified; 6719 Offices of Holding Companies, Not Elsewhere Classified; 7313 Radio, Television & Publishers Advertising Representatives; 7383 News Syndicates

Knight-Ridder, Inc. is the second largest newspaper publisher in the United States, with 31 daily newspapers in 16 states, including the Detroit Free Press, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the San Jose Mercury News. The companys newspapers are well regarded in terms of editorial quality, and have won numerous Pulitzer Prizes. The company also is an international telecommunications company providing business information services, electronic retrieval services, and other media services that reach more than 100 million people in more than 150 countries. Knight-Ridder generates 80 percent of its revenue from its newspaper operations.

The company began as two separate newspaper groups, which merged in 1974. The Ridder group originated in 1892, when Herman Ridder purchased the Staats-Zeitung, a New York German-language paper. The Knight group began in 1903 when Charles Landon (C. L.) Knight bought the Akron Beacon Journal, in Ohio, which the company still owns. He soon bought two smaller Ohio newspapers, the Springfield Sun and the Massillon Independent.

C. L. Knight, a brilliant writer, began training his son John at an early age to replace him. John S. Knight worked as copy boy and reporter, then went to college and fought in World War I. In 1919, at age 25, he joined the Beacon Journals staff, and became managing editor in 1925. He carefully observed the operations of better newspapers and applied his insights to the Beacon Journal. C. L. Knight died in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, leaving an estate of $515,000 and debts of $800,000 to his sons, John S. and James L. Knight. The Beacon Journal was facing stiff competition from another Akron paper, the Times-Press, owned by Scripps-Howard, and the Great Depression was at its most severe. John Knight froze family earnings and took on the Times-Press, running more news and features than his competitor to win over readers. He paid off the Beacon Journals debts within four years, and made it Akrons leading newspaper.

John Knights first major test as publisher came during a 1936 Akron rubber strike. Rubber was the citys major industry, and as the strike dragged on, money and advertising dried up. The Times-Press cut back on editorial pages, but Knight increased local news coverage and won readers from the Times-Press. When the strike ended, he kept the readers and won new advertising.

On October 15, 1937, John Knight became president and publisher of The Miami Herald, after purchasing it for $2.25 million. The business side of the paper had been run poorly before the Knights bought it, so James Knight, who had studied the business and production side of newspaper publishing, became operations manager. The Knights first move was to distance the paper from the Miami political establishment, with which it had previously had close ties. The Herald had two competitors. The Knights soon bought one, the Miami Tribune, which had been losing money. For a cost of $600,000 plus the Massillon Independent, the Knights bought the Tribune, eliminating a competitor and acquiring the Tribunes building, new printing press, and other equipment. Knight closed the Tribune on December 1, 1937, taking six of the Tribunes best people with him.

The Knights added more photographs, comics, and new columnists to the Herald. In the next two years two local stories a kidnapping case and a controversy over pasteurized milk received national attention and won 14,000 new readers for the Herald. Having turned the Miami Herald around, the Knights bought another paper, the Detroit Free Press, in 1940.

In 1941 Knight Newspapers, Inc. was incorporated in Ohio. World War II found German submarines off the Florida coast driving away tourists and the business that had supported the Herald. The paper lost much of its staff to the army, but several large military bases were set up in the Miami area, and the soldiers boosted the Heralds circulation again. Lee Hills was brought in as news editor. He immediately recruited talented journalists from other Florida papers to make up for the staff the Herald had lost to the war effort. When a serious newsprint shortage created problems toward the end of the war, Hills and James Knight decided to cut advertising and circulation outside the Miami metropolitan area rather than editorial content, which wrested a large number of readers from its remaining competitor, The Miami News.

In 1944 the Knights bought the Chicago Daily News for $3 million, and took on the papers $12 million debt. The Daily News had won a reputation for having the most thorough foreign news section of any Chicago paper, but John Knight found the stories too long and poorly written. He ordered the stories to be made more succinct, creating a brief storm of protest among some writers and readers.

The population of Dade County, Florida, nearly doubled in the years 1940 to 1950, and the Heralds circulation grew apace, from 86,313 in 1941 to 175,985 in 1951. In 1946 Lee Hills began the Clipper Edition, a streamlined version of the Herald that was distributed in 23 Latin American countries. The paper won prestige and readership in Latin America, while the Heralds Miami edition began to specialize in coverage of Latin America. Because of these early efforts, the paper is considered by many to have the best Latin American coverage of any U.S. newspaper.

In 1948 the Heralds printers began a lengthy, sometimes violent strike over wages and the length of their work week. They were among the best paid printers in the country, but wanted to receive the same wages for working 35 hours as they were getting for working 40. The strike dragged on, and on October 1, 1949, the papers newsprint warehouse burned down in a mysterious fire. Because of the strike, the Herald experimented with alternative production methods, and ended up with production methods years ahead of those at most other papers. In 1950 the paper won its first Pulitzer Prize for fighting government corruption in southern Florida. The next year Hills became executive editor of the Herald and the Detroit Free Press. He encouraged individual style and quality writing and drew a large number of excellent reporters and columnists from other papers.

In 1960 Knight took a gamble and built a $30 million building, containing offices and printing presses, for The Miami Herald. At the time it was the biggest building in Florida, and the biggest newspaper printing plant ever built. It reflected the Knightss belief that the Herald and Miamiwould continue to grow, which they did.

In 1955 Knight bought The Charlotte Observer, in North Carolina, purchasing its rival, The Charlotte News, in 1959. In the same year, the Knights sold the Chicago Daily News to Marshall Field for $17 million.

As the group grew larger, the Knights wanted to increase financial coordination among the newspapers. At the suggestion of Lee Hills, the Knights formed an executive committee in 1960 to undertake quarterly reviews of the operations of Knight Newspapers. They also hired finance man Alvah H. Chapman Jr. as James Knights assistant; he rose within ten years to be president of the Herald and executive vice-president of Knight Newspapers. He introduced computers for administration, layout, typesetting, and production; and for improving the operation of the circulation, advertising, and business departments. Chapman mandated budgeting at all Knight newspapers, which was rarely done at small and medium-sized newspapers up to that time.

Knight Newspapers began an aggressive acquisition campaign during the same period, looking for newspapers in growing cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants. In 1969 the son of Moses Annenberg (the former Miami Tribune owner who sold that paper to the Knights), Walter Annenberg, sold The Philadelphia News and The Philadelphia Inquirer to Knight Newspapers for $55 million. Knight Newspapers added the Tallahassee Democrat, in Florida, to the group in 1965. The five papers Knight bought in 1969 continued the companys strategy of owning more than one newspaper in a market, thereby eliminating competition. In 1969 Knights combined daily circulation was 2.2 million, and it made $12.7 million in profits on revenue of $162.8 million, largely on rising advertising revenues. It had come to be regarded as a well-managed, highly profitable, and very aggressive group, although its editorial content was not top quality. In 1969 Knight Newspapers, Inc. went public, the first offering immediately selling out at $30 a share.

Knight acquired five more dailies in 1973: the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader, both in Kentucky; the Columbus Ledger and the Columbus Enquirer, both in Georgia; and The Bradenton Herald in Florida.

Herman Ridder, founder of the Ridder group, worked his way up through the ranks at the Staats-Zeitung, purchasing that New York newspaper in 1892. He was a founder and president of the Associated Press and an early supporter of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, becoming its president in 1907. His sons Bernard, Joseph, and Victor bought the New York Journal of Commerce and the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press in 1927. Ridder Publications was incorporated in Delaware in 1942.

After World War II the company expanded westward in search of well-priced properties in growing markets. They bought the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Long Beach Independent, San Jose Mercury- News, and the Pasadena Star News, all in California, as well as some smaller California papers; a 65 percent stake in the Seattle Times, in Washington; the Gary Post Tribune in Indiana; and radio and television station WCCO, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The San Jose Mercury News was the most profitable Ridder publication. The company bought the Boulder Daily Camera in Colorado in 1969 and the Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publishing Company of Kansas in 1973.

Ridders 1973 earnings were $14.3 million on revenue of $166 million. Knights 1973 earnings were $22.1 million on revenue of $341.9 million. Their merger grew out of talks between friends Lee Hills and Bernard Ridder Jr., grandson of Herman Ridder, who were interested in expansion. Influenced by the success of the rival Gannett group, both the Knight and the Ridder groups had gone public in 1969 to raise capital for acquisitions. The groups described the potential benefits of a merger to their stockholders as a broader and more diversified income base, greater newspaper size, mix and geographical distribution, and a stronger balance sheet. The merger was accomplished through an exchange of stock, and five Ridder representatives joined ten from Knight Newspapers, to form Knight-Ridders board of directors.

The Knight group had focused on the South and East, while Ridder had focused on the West and Midwest. At the time of the merger, Knight owned 16 dailies in seven states, while Ridder owned or had a substantial interest in 19 dailies in ten states. The Ridder dailies were all in exclusive markets, while the Knights three largest revenue yieldersin Miami, Detroit, and Philadelphiaall faced competition. At the time of the merger, Time, July 22, 1974, reported that in general, the Ridder papers do not have the heft and influence of the Knight dailies.

When the groups merged on November 30, 1974, Ridder became a wholly owned subsidiary of Knight, and the renamed Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. became the largest newspaper company in the United States, with newspapers from coast to coast. The new company had 35 newspapers in 25 cities, with combined circulation averaging 3.8 million daily and 4.2 million on Sunday, total assets of $465 million, and profits of $36 million. Other large companies published newspapers, but they were diversified, while Knight-Ridder Newspapers focused on newspapers aloneKnight and Ridder had agreed to sell their radio and television holdings as part of the Federal Communications Commissions conditions for merging. The new company continued to give its newspapers editorial autonomy while maintaining strict central control of business operations. It organized its new papers into three groups along geographical lines.

In 1976 Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. became Knight-Ridder, Inc. Alvah H. Chapman Jr. was elected chief executive officer, succeeding Lee Hills, and Bernard H. Ridder Jr. was elected chairman of the executive committee, succeeding James L. Knight, who resigned. James L. Knight died in 1991 at the age of 81. John Knight also retired as editorial chairman in 1976. He died in 1981 at the age of 81. Lee Hills took his place until 1979 when he retired and Bernard H. Ridder Jr. succeeded him.

Beginning in the late 1970s, many media companies went on newspaper-buying binges, snapping up what turned out to be bargains while Knight-Ridder watched from the sidelines. The company had concluded that newspapers were a mature market and moved into other areas. It bought radio stations; entered cable television in 1981 with TKR Cable Co., a 50-50 joint venture with Tele-Communications Inc.; and started Viewdata Corporation, which offered news and financial services on home computers. Viewdata never did well, and was closed in 1986 after losing $50 million. By that time Knight-Ridder recognized that it had made a mistake, and that profit gains might come from newspapers. Knight-Ridder finally acquired more newspapers that year when it bought the six-paper State-Record Company, based in Columbia, South Carolina, for $311 million.

By the mid-1980s, Knight-Ridder had a stable of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters and 34 newspapers. Yet its largest four newspapersMiami, Detroit, Philadelphia, and San Jose which accounted for 55 percent of company revenues, had problems at various times in 1980s, including a 46-day strike in Philadelphia in 1985. The companys net profits fell 5.7 percent in 1985. They rose 5.5 percent in 1986, but competitors were doing far better in those yearsGannetts profits rose 23 percent, while the Times Mirror Companys rose 75 percent.

Part of the reason for the companys declining profits was that it had lost touch with its readers. Hispanics accounted for half the population of the Miami area, but only 20 percent of them read The Miami Herald. In 1986 several of the Heralds offices were closed. In 1987, it redesigned the Spanish version of the paper, El Nuevo Herald, to win Hispanic readership. The Detroit Free Press, locked in a cutthroat price war with the rival Detroit News, lost $74 million between 1981 and 1987, prompting the company to request a joint operating agreement (JOA) from the U.S. Department of Justice allowing the Free Press and News to share advertising and production operations. Citizens groups challenged the request on the grounds that the measure was anticompetitive and that both papers could coexist healthily if they raised their prices. The opposition created long delays and several more years of losses. The joint operating agreement was finally granted in 1989, when the Supreme Court approved the agreement.

By 1988 Knight-Ridders business information services division was growing three times as fast as its newspapers. The company had also moved into computer-based graphics services. The Knight-Ridder Graphics Network went on line in October 1985, at first servicing only newspapers in the group. It began to offer a full-scale daily service to papers outside Knight-Ridder in 1986. Within a year it was used by 28 of the chains newspapers and had 110 outside subscribers in North America and Europe. Subscribing newspapers paid $50 to $300 a month, depending on their circulation, for the privilege of using the system.

Beginning in 1987, Knight-Ridder undertook a cost-cutting campaign headed by P. Anthony Ridder, president of the newspaper division. By 1989, however, the companys debt approached $1 billion, fed by the 1988 purchase of Dialog Information Services, Inc., a leading online information service, for $353 million. In 1988 James Batten was appointed chief executive officer, replacing Alvah Chapman, and Anthony Ridder was named president of the company. To reduce debt, Batten sold the companys broadcasting group and the Pasadena Morning Star News netting $425 million. Still, the company was sufficiently wary of a takeover for its shareholders to vote a quality of journalism amendment to prevent a buyout by a media baron such as Rupert Murdoch.

Under Batten and Ridder. Knight-Ridder in the early through mid-1990s gradually tightened its focus to newspapers and business information services by making additional divestments. The company stayed away from costly bleeding-edge gambles similar to Viewdata, instead working to extend its core businesses in new ways and making strategic acquisitions complementary to those same core businesses.

Within Knight-Ridders newspaper division, the San Jose Mercury News, through a partnership with online service provider America Online in 1993, became the first newspaper in the country to offer its readers an online extension of its paper. The flat-rate service offered news and features from the paper, advertising, and bulletin boards for messaging. That same year a similar venture began to be developed for the Detroit Free Press, this time in partnership with America Online competitor CompuServe. By 1995, Knight-Ridder had committed to putting all of its papers online by 1997.

In its business information services division, Knight-Ridder was disappointed with the lackluster growth of ten percent a year that Dialog had been achieving since it was acquired. To remedy this, the company adopted two strategiesgeographic growth and user growth. In 1993 it acquired Data-Star, a European online service, from the Swiss engineering company Motor-Columbus. In its first year under Knight-Ridder, Data-Star helped boost Dialogs revenue 19 percent over 1992. In 1994, the company moved into the Canadian market with a joint venture with Southam, Inc. called Infomart DIALOG. The companys three online servicesDIALOG. Data-Star, and Infomart DIALOGwere then grouped within the newly named Knight-Ridder Information, Inc. (KRII), the former Dialog Information Services. With regard to the second strategy, KRIIs services were traditionally used primarily by librarians and other information specialists who had mastered the complex and powerful software the services ran on. In order to expand the potential user base, in 1993 KRÍI began to develop interfaces for the services that were easier for end-users businesspeople and academicsto use themselves.

In late 1993, Batten was critically injured in a car crash, neared death, and finally recovered after spending 17 days in the hospital. Less than two months later, he was back on the job part-time and eventually returned on a full-time basis. In mid-1994, however, Batten was diagnosed with brain cancer, and in March 1995 stepped down as CEO although he remained chairman. Anthony Ridder took over as CEO, then also took over the chairmanship upon Battens death three months later.

The revamping of the business information services division continued in the mid-1990s. In early 1994 Knight-Ridder acquired Technimetrics, a provider of investor relations information. The following year, the Journal of Commerce was sold to the Economist Group, the British publisher of the Economist magazine, for $115 million. The move was part of the companys strategy to move away from specialized markets. Early in 1996, the Knight-Ridder Financial news wire was put up for sale after the company failed in a years-long effort to make inroads against the top three business wires. Reuters, Dow Joness Telerate, and Bloomberg Financial News. It was sold later that spring for $275 million. Two months later, Knight-Ridder made another significant divestment this one outside the business information sectorwhen it sold its stake in TKR Cable to its partner Tele-Communications Inc. for about S420 million in cash and stock. Knight-Ridder decided to leave the cable business because of the industrys increasing consolidation, which made it impossible for small players such as Knight-Ridder to compete.

With the newspaper division looming more important than ever to Knight-Ridders future, the company made substantial investments there in the mid-1990s. In 1995, a $120 million, two-year modernization of the Miami Heralds main plant was announced and S360 million was spent to acquire four daily newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area from Lehser Communications. Inc. The acquired papers had a combined circulation of 190,000 daily and 206,000 Sunday.

Unfortunately, 1995 was also the year in which a long, bitter, and sometimes violent strike began in Detroit and affected the two daily papers operating under the JOA, including the Detroit Free Press. Started in July, the strike hit Knight-Ridder hard, contributing greatly to an 82 percent decline in 1995s third-quarter profits. The company appeared to be banking on making up the losses in the long run by forcing the unions to accept lower wages.

With the strike in Detroit stretching well into 1996, Knight-Ridder faced an uncertain future. Having slimmed down to newspapers and business information services and cutting costs substantially in the process, the company now had to find ways to increase revenues from its core businesses (revenue in 1995 had increased only 3.9 percent). This had long proved difficult in the mature newspaper business, so Knight-Ridders various electronic ventures were more important than ever to the companys future.

Principal Subsidiaries

Aberdeen News Company; Boca Raton News, Inc.: Boulder Publishing, Inc.; The Bradenton Herald. Inc.; Detroit Newspaper Agency (50%); Drinnon, Inc.; Grand Forks Herald, Incorporated; Gulf Publishing Company. Inc.; Keynoter Publishing Company, Inc.; Macon Telegraph Publishing Company; News Publishing Company; Newspapers First (33.33%); Nittany Printing & Publishing Co.; San Jose Mercury News. Inc.: The State-Record Company; Sun Publishing Company, Inc.; Tallahassee Democrat, Inc.; The Union-Recorder; Vu/TEXT Information Services; Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publishing Co., Inc.; Unicorn, Inc. (U.K.).

Principal Divisions

Business Information Services Division: Newspaper Division.

Principal Operating Units

The Beacon Journal Publishing Company; The Charlotte Observer; Centre Daily Times. Inc.; The Columbus Ledger & Enquirer: Commodity News Services. Inc.: Duluth News-Tribune; Fort Wayne Newspapers, Inc.; The Knight Publishing Co.; Long Beach Press-Telegram Division: The Miami Herald; The R.W. Page Corp.; Philadelphia Newspapers. Inc.: Saint Paul Pioneer Press Division; Sun Herald; The Sun News.

Further Reading

DeGeorge. Gail, Knight-Ridder: Running Hard, but Staying in place, Business week, February 26, 1996.

DeGeorge, Gail, and Veronica N. Byrd. Knight-Ridder: Once Burned, and the Memory Lingers, Business Week, April 11, 1994.

Dynastic Ridder Clan Gathers40 Strong, Editor & Publisher, April 19, 1969.

Jones, Tim, For Newspapers, a Bundle of Woes, Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1995, p. 1.

Knight-Ridder Will Become Largest All-Newspaper Firm, Editor & Publisher, November 16, 1974.

Sandoval, Ricardo, Knight-Ridder Buys Four Lesher Papers in San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose Mercury News, August 29, 1995.

Smiley. Nixon, Knights of the Fourth Estate: The Story of the Miami Herald. Miami: E.A. Seemann Publishing, 1974, 340 p.

Whited, Charles, Knight: A Publisher in the Tumultuous Century, New York E.P. Dutton, 1988, 405 p.

Scott M. Lewis

updated by David E. Salamie

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Knight-Ridder, Inc.

Knight-Ridder, Inc.

One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132
U.S.A.
(305) 376-3800
Fax: (305) 376-3876

Public Company
Incorporated:
1974 as Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc.
Employees: 20,000
Sales: $2.31 billion
Stock Exchanges: New York Tokyo Philadelphia Chicago Boston San Francisco Los Angeles Cincinnati

Knight-Ridder, Inc. is one of the largest newspaper groups in the United States, owning 29 newspapers, as well as an international information and communications company that offers news, graphics and photo services, and cable television. The companys newspapers are well regarded in terms of editorial quality, and have won numerous Pulitzer Prizes. Despite these achievements, Knight-Ridder lagged the industry in profitability during much of the 1980s. To reduce its debt, it sold off several newspapers during the late 1980s, as well as five of its eight television stations. The company relies on newspapers for 86% of its profits.

The company began as two separate newspaper groups, which merged in 1974. The Ridder group originated in 1892, when Herman Ridder purchased the Staats-Zeitung, a New York German-language paper. The Knight group began in 1903 when Charles Landon (C.L.) Knight bought the Akron Beacon Journal, in Ohio, which the company still owns. He soon bought two smaller Ohio newspapers, the Springfield Sun and the Massillon Independent.

C.L. Knight, a brilliant writer, began training his son John at an early age to replace him. John S. Knight worked as copy boy and reporter, then went to college and fought in World War I. In 1919, at age 25, he joined the Beacon Journals staff, and became managing editor in 1925. He carefully observed the operations of better newspapers and applied his insights to the Beacon Journal. C.L. Knight died in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, leaving an estate of $515,000 and debts of $800,000 to his sons, John S. and James L. Knight. The Beacon Journal was facing stiff competition from another Akron paper, the Times-Press, owned by Scripps-Howard, and the Great Depression was at its most severe. John Knight froze family earnings and took on the Times-Press, running more news and features than his competitor to win over readers. He paid off the Beacon Journals debts within four years, and made it Akrons leading newspaper.

John Knights first major test as publisher came during a 1936 Akron rubber strike. Rubber was the citys major industry, and as the strike dragged on, money and advertising dried up. The Times-Press cut back on editorial pages, but Knight increased local news coverage and won readers from the Times-Press. When the strike ended, he kept the readers and won new advertising.

On October 15, 1937, John Knight became president and publisher of The Miami Herald, after purchasing it for $2.25 million. The business side of the paper had been run poorly before the Knights bought it, so James Knight, who had studied the business and production side of newspaper publishing, became operations manager. The Knightss first move was to distance the paper from the Miami political establishment, with which it had previously had close ties. The Herald had two competitors. The Knights soon bought one, the Miami Tribune, which had been losing money. For a cost of $600,000 plus the Massillon Independent, the Knights bought the Tribune, eliminating a competitor and acquiring the Tribunes building, new printing press, and other equipment. Knight closed the Tribune on December 1, 1937, taking six of the Tribunes best people with him.

The Knights added more photographs, comics, and new columnists to the Herald. In the next two years two local stories a kidnapping case and a controversy over pasteurized milkreceived national attention and won 14,000 new readers for the Herald. Having turned the Miami Herald around, the Knights bought another paper, the Detroit Free Press, in 1940.

In 1941 Knight Newspapers, Inc. was incorporated in Ohio. World War II found German submarines off the Florida coast driving away tourists and the business that had supported the Herald. The paper lost much of its staff to the army, but several large military bases were set up in the Miami area, and the soldiers boosted the Heralds circulation again. Lee Hills was brought in as news editor. He immediately recruited talented journalists from other Florida papers to make up for the staff the Herald had lost to the war effort. When a serious newsprint shortage created problems toward the end of the war, Hills and James Knight decided to cut advertising and circulation outside the Miami metropolitan area rather than editorial content, which wrested a large number of readers from its remaining competitor, The Miami News.

In 1944 the Knights bought the Chicago Daily News for $3 million, and took on the papers $12 million debt. The Daily News had won a reputation for having the most thorough foreign news section of any Chicago paper, but John Knight found the stories too long and poorly written. He ordered the stories to be made more succinct, creating a brief storm of protest among some writers and readers.

The population of Dade County, Florida, nearly doubled in the years 1940 to 1950, and the Heralds circulation grew apace, from 86,313 in 1941 to 175,985 in 1951. In 1946 Lee Hills began the Clipper Edition, a streamlined version of the Herald that was distributed in 23 Latin American countries. The paper won prestige and readership in Latin America, while the Heralds Miami edition began to specialize in coverage of Latin America. Because of these early efforts, the paper is considered by many to have the best Latin American coverage of any U.S. newspaper.

In 1948 the Heralds printers began a lengthy, sometimes violent strike over wages and the length of their work week. They were among the best paid printers in the country, but wanted to receive the same wages for working 35 hours as they were getting for working 40. The strike dragged on, and on October 1, 1949, the papers newsprint warehouse burned down in a mysterious fire. Because of the strike, the Herald experimented with alternative production methods, and ended up with production methods years ahead of those at most other papers. In 1950 the paper won its first Pulitzer Prize for fighting government corruption in southern Florida. The next year Hills became executive editor of the Herald and the Detroit Free Press. He encouraged individual style and quality writing and drew a large number of excellent reporters and columnists from other papers.

In 1960 Knight took a gamble and built a $30 million building, containing offices and printing presses, for The Miami Herald. At the time it was the biggest building in Florida, and the biggest newspaper printing plant ever built. It reflected the Knightss belief that the Heraldana Miamiwould continue to grow, which they did.

In 1955 Knight bought The Charlotte Observer, in North Carolina, purchasing its rival, The Charlotte News, in 1959. In the same year, the Knights sold the Chicago Daily News to Marshall Field for $17 million.

As the group grew larger, the Knights wanted to increase financial coordination among the newspapers. At the suggestion of Lee Hills, the Knights formed an executive committee in 1960 to undertake quarterly reviews of the operations of Knight Newspapers. They also hired finance man Alvah H. Chapman Jr. as James Knights assistant; he rose within ten years to be president of the Herald and executive vice president of Knight Newspapers. He introduced computers for administration, layout, typesetting, and production; and for improving the operation of the circulation, advertising, and business departments. Chapman mandated budgeting at all Knight newspapers, which was rarely done at small- and medium-sized newspapers up to that time.

Knight Newspapers began an aggressive acquisition campaign during the same period, looking for newspapers in growing cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants. In 1969 the son of Moses Annenberg, the former Miami Tribune owner who sold that paper to the Knights, Walter Annenberg, sold The Philadelphia News and The Philadelphia Inquirer to Knight Newspapers for $55 million. Knight Newspapers added the Tallahassee Democrat, in Florida, to the group in 1965. The five papers Knight bought in 1969 continued the companys strategy of owning more than one newspaper in a market, thereby eliminating competition. In 1969 Knights combined daily circulation was 2.2 million, and it made $12.7 million in profits on revenue of $162.8 million, largely on rising advertising revenues. It had come to be regarded as a well-managed, highly profitable, and very aggressive group, although its editorial content was not top quality. In 1969 Knight Newspapers, Inc. went public, the first offering immediately selling out at $30 a share.

Knight acquired five more dailies in 1973: the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader, both in Kentucky; the Columbus Ledger and the Columbus Enquirer, both in Georgia; and The Bradenton Herald in Florida.

Herman Ridder, founder of the Ridder group, worked his way up through that ranks at the Staats-Zeitung, purchasing that New York newspaper in 1892. He was a founder and president of the Associated Press and an early supporter of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, becoming its president in 1907. His sons Bernard, Joseph, and Victor bought the New York Journal of Commerce and the St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press in 1927. Ridder Publications was incorporated in Delaware in 1942.

After World War II the company expanded westward in search of well-priced properties in growing markets. They bought the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Long Beach Independent, San Jose Mercury News, and Pasadena Star News, all in California, as well as some smaller California papers; a 65% stake in the Seattle Times, in Washington; the Gary Post Tribune in Indiana; and radio and television station WCCO, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The San Jose Mercury News was the most profitable Ridder publication. The company bought the Boulder Daily Camera in Colorado in 1969 and the Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publishing Company of Kansas in 1973.

Ridders 1973 earnings were $14.3 million on revenue of $166 million. Knights 1973 earnings were $22.1 million on revenue of $341.9 million. Their merger grew out of talks between friends Lee Hills and Bernard Ridder Jr., grandson of Herman Ridder, who were interested in expansion. Influenced by the success of the rival Gannett group, both the Knight and the Ridder groups had gone public in 1969 to raise capital for acquisitions. The groups described the potential benefits of a merger to their stockholders as a broader and more diversified income base, greater newspaper size, mix and geographical distribution, and a stronger balance sheet. The merger was accomplished through an exchange of stock, and five Ridder representatives joined ten from Knight Newspapers, to form Knight-Ridders board of directors.

The Knight group had focused on the South and East, while Ridder had focused on the West and Midwest. At the time of the merger, Knight owned 16 dailies in 7 states, while Ridder owned or had a substantial interest in 19 dailies in 10 states. The Ridder dailies were all in exclusive markets, while the Knights three largest revenue yieldersin Miami, Detroit, and Philadelphiaall faced competition. At the time of the merger, Time, July 22, 1974, reported that in general, the Ridder papers do not have the heft and influence of the Knight dailies.

When the groups merged on November 30, 1974, Ridder became a wholly owned subsidiary of Knight, and the renamed Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. became the largest newspaper company in the United States, with newspapers from coast to coast. The new company had 35 newspapers in 25 cities, with combined circulation averaging 3.8 million daily, and 4.2 million on Sunday, total assets of $465 million, and profits of $36 million. Other large companies published newspapers, but they were diversified, while Knight-Ridder Newspapers focused on newspapers aloneKnight and Ridder had agreed to sell their radio and television holdings as part of the Federal Communications Commissions conditions for merging. The new company continued to give its newspapers editorial autonomy while maintaining strict central control of business operations. It organized its new papers into three groups along geographical lines.

In 1976 Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. became Knight-Ridder, Inc. Alvah H. Chapman Jr. was elected chief executive officer, succeeding Lee Hills, and Bernard H. Ridder Jr. was elected chairman of the executive committee, succeeding James L. Knight, who resigned. James L. Knight died in 1991 at the age of 81. John Knight also retired as editorial chairman in 1976. He died in 1981 at the age of 81. Lee Hills took his place until 1979 when he retired and Bernard H. Ridder Jr. succeeded him.

Beginning in the late 1970s, many media companies went on newspaper-buying binges, snapping up what turned out to be bargains while Knight-Ridder watched from the sidelines. The company had concluded that newspapers were a mature market and moved into other areas. It bought radio stations and started Viewdata Corporation, which offered news and financial services on home computers. Viewdata never did well, and was closed in 1986. By that time Knight-Ridder recognized that it had made a mistake, and that profit gains might come from newspapers. Knight-Ridder finally acquired more newspapers that year when it bought the six-paper State-Record Company, based in Columbia, South Carolina, for $311 million.

By the mid-1980s, Knight-Ridder had a stable of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters and 34 newspapers. Yet its largest four newspapersMiami, Detroit, Philadelphia, and San Josewhich accounted for 55% of company revenues, had problems at various times in 1980s, including a 46-day strike in Philadelphia in 1985. The companys net profits fell 5.7% in 1985. They rose 5.5% in 1986, but competitors were doing far better in those yearsGannetts profits rose 23%, while the Times Mirror Companys rose 75%.

Part of the reason for the companys declining profits was that it had lost touch with its readers. Hispanics accounted for half the population of the Miami area, but only 20% of them read The Miami Herald. In 1986 several of the Heralds offices were closed. In 1987, it redesigned the Spanish version of the paper, El Nuevo Herald, to win Hispanic readership. The Detroit Free Press, locked in a cutthroat price war with the rival Detroit News, lost $74 million between 1981 and 1987, prompting the company to request a joint operating agreement from the U.S. Department of Justice. The agreement would have allowed the Free Press and News to share advertising and production operations. Citizens groups challenged the request on the grounds that the measure was anti-competitive and that both papers could coexist healthily if they raised their prices. The opposition created long delays and several more years of losses. The joint operating agreement was finally granted in 1989, when the Supreme Court approved the agreement.

By 1988 Knight-Ridders business-information services division was growing three times as fast as its newspapers. The company had also moved into computer-based graphics services. The Knight-Ridder Graphics Network went on line in October 1985, at first servicing only newspapers in the group. It began to offer a full-scale daily service to papers outside Knight-Ridder in 1986. Within a year it was used by 28 of the chains newspapers and had 110 outside subscribers in North America and Europe. Subscribing newspapers paid $50 to $300 a month, depending on their circulation, for the privilege of using the system.

Beginning in 1987, Knight-Ridder undertook a cost-cutting campaign headed by Tony Ridder, president of the newspaper division. However, by 1989, the companys debt approached $1 billion, fed by the 1988 purchase of Dialog Information Services, Inc. for $353 million. In 1988 Jim Batten was appointed chief executive officer, replacing Alvah Chapman, and Tony Ridder was named president of the company. To reduce debt, Batten sold the companys broadcasting group and the Pasadena Morning Star News netting $425 million. Still, the company was sufficiently wary of a takeover for its shareholders to vote a quality of journalism amendment to prevent a buyout by a media baron like Rupert Murdoch.

Knight-Ridders options for increasing its profitability were limited. In 1989 it derived 88% of its revenue from newspapers, and 50% of that came from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Miami Herald, and the San Jose Mercury. Some of the companys papers faced stiff competition from suburban newspapers and expanding big-city papers. Part of the problem lay in the newspaper field itself, where readership had been sinking for two decades, but part of the problem lay with Knight-Ridder. For the last five years of the 1980s, the companys operating margins averaged 14.3%, while the average for the 16 largest publicly traded media companies was 18.8%. As the 1990s began, however, media analysts predicted significant improvement in Knight-Ridders earnings.

Principal Subsidiaries

Aberdeen News Company; The Beacon Journal Publishing Company; Boca Raton News, Inc.; Boulder Publishing, Inc.; The Bradenton Herald, Inc.; Cir-com Corporation; Detroit Free Press, Inc.; Drinnon, Inc.; Grand Forks Herald, Incorporated; Journal of Commerce, Inc.; Keynoter Publishing Company, Inc.; KR Newsprint Company; Knight News Services, Inc.; The Knight Publishing Co.; Knight-Ridder Business Information Services, Inc.; Knight-Ridder Cablevision, Inc.; Knight-Ridder Investment Company; Lexington Herald-Leader Co.; Macön Telegraph Publishing Company; The Miami Herald Publishing Co.; News Publishing Company; Nittany Printing and Publishing Company; Northwest Publications, Inc.; Observer Transportation Company; Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc.; Portage Graphics Co.; Post-Tribune Publishing, Inc.; PressLink Corporation; The R.W. Page Corporation; Ridder Publications, Inc.; San Jose Mercury News, Inc.; The State-Record Holding Company; Tallahassee Democrat, Inc.; Tribune Newsprint Company; Twin Cities Newspaper Service, Inc.; Twin Coast Newspapers, Inc.; VU/TEXT Information Services, Inc.; Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publishing Company, Inc.

Further Reading

Dynastic Ridder clan gathers40 strong, Editor & Publisher, April 19, 1969; Smiley, Nixon, Knights of the Fourth Estate: The Story of the Miami Herald, Miami, E.A. Seeman Publishing, Inc., 1974; Knight-Ridder will become largest all-newspaper firm, Editor & Publisher, November 16, 1974; Whited, Charles, Knight: A Publisher in the Tumultuous Century, New York, E.P. Dutton, 1988.

Scott M. Lewis

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"Knight-Ridder, Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/knight-ridder-inc-0