Over the past several decades, the dubious trials and tribulations of boxing promoter and entrepreneur Don King have gotten their fair share of ink in daily newspapers across the country. So what better way to turn the tables and get an inside track than by purchasing your own newspaper? That’s exactly what King did earlier this year, when Don King Productions took full ownership of the beleaguered African American paper the Cleveland Call & Post.
The 81-year-old weekly, at one point considered the country’s largest black-owned newspaper, has a circulation of approximately 30,000. The paper met with financial hardship and filed for chapter 11 in December 1995. Trustee Saul Eisen, a partner at the Cleveland law firm Javitch, Block, Eisen & Rathbone, says the Call & Post amassed debts of more than $500,000, largely attributed to fiscal mismanagement. Last January Eisen converted the operation to chapter 7. Six months later, the paper went up for sale to the highest bidder.
"We placed ads in several business publications and received interest from across the country," says Eisen. The field was narrowed to four active bidders–Sesh Communications, owners of the Cincinnati Herald; James Crosby, founder of the black weekly magazine Cleveland Life,, the Perkins Family, owners of Ohio-based Choice Construction; and Don King Productions. King won the auction with a bid of $760,000 in Cleveland bankruptcy court.
King will have a few distractions as he attempts to get the Call & Post back on solid footing. Fresh off the heels of a three-month federal trial in which he was charged with wire fraud, he’s currently the subject of a pending $100 million lawsuit filed by fighter and former client Mike Tyson, who claims King cheated him out of millions over more than a decade.
What impact will King’s dubious reputation have on advertisers, not to mention the paper’s reputation and credibility? Yvonne Cooper, executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association in Washington, D.C., which is made up of over 200 black-owned newspapers across the country, doesn’t believe King’s rogue reputation will necessarily tarnish the newspaper’s standing in the Cleveland community.
"He’ll provide a definite boost and a different perspective," she says. "He’s a seasoned businessman who is very visible, and we welcome him with open arms."