BOSTON -- Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has sold the Boston Herald to publisher Patrick J. Purcell, it was announced Friday.
Murdoch sold the paper to clear the way to buy a local Fox Network television station and avoid violating federal rules against owning a newspaper and television outlet in the same market.
Purcell said he will give up his other publishing job at the Murdoch- owned New York Post to devote all his energies to making the Herald a continued success.
Asked if the Herald is making a profit, he said, 'Yes. We're fine.'
'Murdoch and I are very good friends. He knew how much the paper meant to me, and it would have broken my heart to see it go to someone else,' said Purcell, who has been credited with reinvigorating the Herald since he joined the daily in 1984.
Purcell noted that there are steps that will be needed to keep the paper profitable, because it 'won't have the deep pockets and safety net of Murdoch finances.'
He declined to talk of rumored layoffs, but said 'there are a number of things we can do to improve the operation.'
Employees reacted with enthusiasm, saying the sale to Purcell was the best thing that could happen and guarantees that for the forseeable future, Boston will remain a two-newspaper city, something that has becoming increasingly rare.
The Herald, with about 800 employees, competes with The Boston Globe, which recently was acquired by The New York Times Co.
The Herald sale, with the financial help of the Bank of Boston Corp., is effective Feb. 14. Purcell said there are no partners in the deal.
The sale price was not disclosed, but was reported to be about $20 million. Murdoch bought the paper 12 years ago for $1 million.
In a statement, Murdoch said he was 'saddened to give up what has become an excellent newspaper,' but added it will 'be good for Boston to have the commitment of a local publisher.'
Murdoch noted that his News Corp. earlier announced it was retaining its option to reacquire WFXT-TV, the Fox Network affiliate in the Boston area.
Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit a company from holding both a newspaper and tv station in the same parket, without a waiver.
'The sale of the Boston Herald will remove any potential conflict with the FCC's cross ownership rule,' Murdoch said.
The News Corp. owns Fox Inc., which operates the Fox TV network, and News America Corp., which publishes the Herald. Murdoch obtained a waiver last year to acquire the New York Post while still owning the New York Fox station.
The Herald has a daily circulation of 321,715. On Sunday it is 213, 985. The Globe has a circulation of 500,000-plus weekdays and more than 700,000 on Sunday.