The bids to buy Philadelphia Media Network Inc. are in.
At least, that's what former Gov. Ed Rendell told a political blogger before an appearance on MSNBC Friday, according to a blog post on the Politico website.
Rendell told the blogger, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, that bids to buy the parent company of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com "went in today," according to the post by Politico media blogger Dylan Byers.
Rendell did not return phone calls for comment. Kirstin Snow, a spokeswoman for the former governor, said Rendell was "not permitted to discuss" the PMN sale "at this time."
A spokesman for Evercore Partners Inc., the New York investment bank managing the sale, also declined to comment.
Philadelphia Media Network (PMN) spokesman Mark Block said the company would have no comment on the Politico report or respond to questions about how many bids were submitted this week.
That Rendell used the plural bids is telling because it again suggests that Evercore has been dealing with more than one possible bidder. In addition, at least one other bidder is said to include local investors.
"Local ownership is critical to other bids submitted as well," said a person close to a bidder other than the Rendell group, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The New York Post has identified businessman Jeffrey Perelman, one of the sons of the Philadelphia philanthropist Raymond G. Perelman, as a potential bidder. Jeffrey Perelman did not return a call to his Wynnewood office Friday.
Though it is not clear who the other bidders are, two investor groups that had sought to join were not among them.
A group organized by developer Bart Blatstein had announced its interest in bidding in early February, only to be told by representatives of PMN's owners that it would not be permitted to do so.
Raymond Perelman, who attempted to acquire the newspapers out of bankruptcy in 2010, complained in a Feb. 8 letter addressed to PMN that he was "surprised and dismayed" at being excluded from the sale process.
Representatives for both the Blatstein group and Perelman reiterated Friday their continued interest in bidding, and they confirmed having had no communication with PMN management or Evercore recently.
Typically, in an auction-like sale, the seller chooses a preferred bidder, and the two sides enter into an exclusive period of negotiation to hammer out the details of a sale agreement. That period could last 30 to 90 days.
It's also possible, however, that the sellers may choose not to proceed with the sale. The amount of money offered may not be large enough, or the bids may contain conditions the sellers deem unfavorable, according to investment professionals who have participated in many auctions.
Except for sporadic, sometimes offhand, public comments made by Rendell, it's been unclear where the PMN sale process stands because the sellers, their investment banker, and PMN management consistently have declined to comment about it.
That is common for a transaction involving a privately held company, and even more so because PMN is owned by a group of especially private hedge funds, including Alden Global Capital and Angelo, Gordon & Co.
In early February, Rendell held a conference call with reporters about his involvement in a group of investors seeking to buy the newspapers and their related website.
Those investors include New Jersey businessman Lewis Katz; South Jersey insurance executive and Democratic leader George E. Norcross III; Comcast-Spectacor chairman Edward M. Snider; Liberty Property Trust CEO William P. Hankowsky, and Krishna P. "Kris" Singh, president and CEO of Holtec International, of Marlton.
Rendell has cited reasons of "civic duty" for the group's interest in pursuing ownership of the media properties. Because the investors include those who are influential in politics and business, the prospect of ownership being transferred to them has been the source of concern for many journalists in PMN's newsrooms and the subject of debate in various media forums.