The publisher of the revived Sacramento Union, an online and magazine version of the historic old newspaper that launched Mark Twain’s writing career, is decrying a hostile takeover attempt by a member of the McClatchy family that owns the rival Sacramento Bee.

James H. Smith, a veteran newspaperman who served as one of the Union’s last publishers when it was a daily newspaper in the 1990s, accuses J.J. McClatchy of the coup.

He said McClatchy, a major Bee stockholder, announced his intent to take over the fledgling Sacramento Union project at a board of directors meeting May 30, proclaiming himself the general manager. According to Smith, McClatchy claimed he was stepping up to ensure the survival of the enterprise and requested board support.

The motion ended in a 4-4 tie.

“Still acting as chairman, McClatchy scheduled another board meeting on June 9,” said Smith. “In the interim, he promised continued financial support to one of the board members, associate publisher Paul Johnson, who in turn switched his vote to favor the McClatchy takeover.”

After the June 9 board meeting, the operation of the Sacramento Union was moved into the offices of the McClatchy Management Company.

“As of this writing, there has been no indication that the Sacramento Union Magazine would continue publication,” said Smith.

Smith said the people of Sacramento are entitled to information about the enterprise and “what appears to be an effort to deny them an alternative editorial voice to the McClatchy-owned Sacramento Bee.”

The Sacramento Union newspaper, founded in 1851, folded in 1994. Last year it came back as a daily news website and a bi-monthly magazine. On May 20, when the magazine was scheduled to publish monthly, it was forced to lay off its nine-member staff because of insufficient funding.

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