By Mark Josaitis
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
December 14, 1988
LANTANA – The granddaddy of gossip newspapers, the Lantana-based National Enquirer, will be sold “as promptly as is practical,” trustees for the estate of its late owner, Generoso Pope Jr., announced Tuesday.
The sale of the GP Group Inc., which includes the National Enquirer, the Weekly World News, a distribution network and some real estate, was stipulated in Pope’s trust, said Jerome S. Traum. a New York lawyer and one of three trustees of the Pope’s estate.
“We will be moving fairly quickly,” Traum said.
Trustees have fielded many inquiries about the company’s availability since Pope died of a heart attack Oct. 2 at age 61, Traum said. With a weekly circulation of 4.5 million, the National Enquirer is the nation’s largest tabloid.
Although he declined to mention any names or the asking price, Traum said approximately 30 potential buyers have express interest in the company.
“We will set a procedure to organize and filter offers for the company,” Traum said. “It is anticipated there will be an open competitive process, which will provide all qualified interested parties, including family and management, if they desire, to bid for the company.”
Media analyst, who estimate the company’s value to be between $250 million and $400 million, said that Pope’s son, Paul, and London media tycoon Robert Maxwell were likely to be among the bidders.
Paul Pope, 21, who has been working at the paper for several years, was his father’s heir apparent. Paul Pope is attempting to put together financing to bid for the publication, according to The New York Times. It is not known whether Pope’s other five-children are interested in bidding.
Neither Pope’s widow, Lois, nor editor Iain Calden would comment on the sale Tuesday.
Several National Enquirer editors and reporters connected Tuesday also refused to comment on how the sale might affect their jobs. About 350 people work at the company’s Lantana headquarters.
Lantana officials are interested in the fate of the company that Generoso Pope moved there from Englewood Cliffs, N.J. in 1971.
In addition to being one of the town’s largest employers, the National Enquirer put Lantana on the map each holiday season with “The World’s Largest Christmas Tree,” which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Pope also was a great benefactor to Lantana, donating money each year to the town’s police and fire departments for needed equipment.
Town manager Don Harvey said Tuesday that he was not surprised to hear of the company’s sale.
“That rumor has been out in the community since the day Gene Pope died,” Harvey said. “Whenever you have such a strong individual running and owning a company, there is always that kind of speculation when he dies.
“I certainly hope we will not see any major changes in the corporate. We have no reason to believe there will a chance.”
Mayor Bob McDonald said there was no way to assess the impact of the sale on the town until details of the purchase were released.
“They might expand and leave it in Lantana, or they might leave. I don’t know how many of their employees live in the town. It’s not like 2,000 IBM employees being transferred from Boca Raton,” McDonald said.
McDonald said he hoped the new owners would leave the papers in Lantana.
“The place, in (Pope’s) estimate, was adequate for his operation. It’s a great place to live and a great place to do business,” McDonald said.
Lantana Town Council member Dorothy Interlandi viewed the sale in almost personal terms.
“It’s been a good association with the town – with the whole (Pope) family,” she said. “It’s been a happy relationship. It’s sad to have things end, but they do.”