Minow disputes role in Sun-Times sale to Murdoch
Newton Minow says I got it all wrong: He never advised Marshall Field V to sell the Sun-Times to Rupert Murdoch in 1983.
“I have long admired your work and this has greatly disappointed me,” Minow wrote in an email Wednesday.
The powerful Chicago attorney and former FCC chairman was referring to my post here prompted by a glowing tribute to Minow that ran in Monday’s Sun-Times under the byline of the paper’s chairman, Michael Ferro. I thought the salute was ironic since Minow was believed to have played a key role in one of the darkest chapters in Sun-Times history — the paper’s sale to Murdoch nearly three decades ago.
“Your sources are wrong,” Minow, 86, told me. “I opposed the sale of the Sun-Times as a director of Field Enterprises. I’m disappointed that you did not call me to check the facts. . . . Would have been fair if you had checked first.”
It is true that I did not contact Minow before I wrote the piece, and I appreciated receiving his response. He also said he “tried to help” former publisher James Hoge, who headed a group that unsuccessfully sought to keep the Sun-Times in local hands.
Minow’s unequivocal denial contradicts what many of us who worked at the Sun-Times were told by those close to the negotiations at the time. Mike Royko, the late columnist who’d been part of Hoge’s competing bid for the paper, was particularly outspoken in blaming Minow for influencing the decision to sell out to Murdoch.
Numerous published accounts of the events surrounding the sale to Murdoch also identified Minow as a key adviser to Field and his brother, Frederick “Ted” Field. In These Times reported that Minow "cautioned [Marshall Field] that Murdoch might legally contest the sale" if he accepted a local group's bid for the Sun-Times. The Columbia Journalism Review noted that Royko and others involved in the negotiations insisted “that it was Minow who persuaded Marshall — not Frederick — to proceed with the sale [to Murdoch].”
Veteran Chicago Daily News and Los Angeles Times correspondent Larry Green, who wrote the Columbia Journalism Review piece in 1984 and later became executive editor of the Sun-Times, told me Wednesday he still recalls Royko’s account of his verbal confrontation with Minow the day after the Murdoch deal went down.
“A very drunk Royko called Minow up the next morning and called him a bunch of names beginning with ‘cocksucker,’ ” Green said. “When the very proper CJR fact-checker called him to see if it was true and then told him she could not approve using those words, Royko responded with: Then just use 'motherfucker’ instead.”