William Dean Singleton, who built the nation's second-largest newspaper company, will retire next month as chairman of MediaNews Group Inc., owner of The Denver Post.

Singleton, 62, will continue to serve as non-executive chairman of The Post. Mac Tully, president and CEO of the newspaper, will take over from Singleton as publisher.

Singleton said that multiple sclerosis, a condition he was diagnosed with 26 years ago, has slowed him physically.

"Fighting MS has actually caused me to be healthier in some aspects of my life," he said. "But it makes it more difficult to do the things you want to do."

Singleton said he will spend more time with his family and at his Colorado cattle ranches in Grand and Jackson counties. He said he plans to assist his children with various business ventures.

William Dean Singleton, 62, MediaNews Group founder and chairman, will retire next month. He said he plans to assist his children in various business
William Dean Singleton, 62, MediaNews Group founder and chairman, will retire next month. He said he plans to assist his children in various business ventures. He will remain on The Post's editorial board. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

"There are a lot of things I want to do that I haven't had time to do yet," he said. "I'll be thrilled to not be working as hard, but I intend to stay close to The Denver Post."

He said he will maintain an office in downtown Denver and work with Tully.

Singleton founded MediaNews Group in 1983 with the late Richard B. Scudder. Other MediaNews Group newspapers include the San Jose Mercury News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Detroit News and The Salt Lake City Tribune.

"Dean has been a fixture and important leader in Colorado for decades," said Greg Moore, editor of The Post. "He is impossible to replace. Working with a legend has been challenging and exhilarating. I'm going to miss him personally and professionally. At the same time, there is a lot of great journalism to be done here, and I look forward to getting after it with Mac at the helm."

Dean Singleton, Denver Post
Dean Singleton (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Singleton and Scudder bought The Denver Post in 1987 from Times Mirror Inc. Singleton then presided over an aggressive, 22-year battle for dominance in the Denver newspaper market with Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co., owner of the Rocky Mountain News. The Rocky closed in 2009.

The Denver Post won five Pulitzer Prizes under Singleton's leadership.

"Dean is a newspaper legend, and you don't replace a legend. Our job now will be to build on the great company Dean has created," said John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, a company created to jointly manage publications of MediaNews Group and Journal Register Co.

Singleton had a sometimes contentious relationship with labor unions that represented employees of The Denver Post and other MediaNews Group newspapers, particularly when challenging economics in the newspaper industry required wage freezes and cutbacks in benefits.

"There was some angst," said Tony Mulligan, administrative officer of the Denver Newspaper Guild. "We didn't like everything he told us. But I felt he was always upfront with us."

Singleton will continue to hold a seat on The Post's editorial board, which establishes positions on issues and candidate endorsements for the op-ed section.

"Everyone I know worked pretty hard to get his endorsement," said Gov. John Hickenlooper. "Even when I've disagreed with him on a position, I've never once questioned the value of having a publisher who really cares about the community."

Mayor Michael Hancock said he often has sought Singleton's opinion on important issues.

"Dean has a very healthy acknowledgment and respect from elected officials," Hancock said.

Singleton began his newspaper career as a part-time reporter in his hometown of Graham, Texas, at the age of 15. He bought his first newspaper when he was 21.

Singleton served on the board of the Newspaper Association of America from 1993 until 2004 and was chairman of the group in 2002 and 2003.

He was chairman of The Associated Press board of directors from 2007 until 2012.

Singleton serves on the boards of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center, The Helen G. Bonfils Foundation and The Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He previously was a board member of the National Sports Center for the Disabled, the Winter Park Recreational Association and the University of Denver.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp


Chronology

1983: Texas newspaperman William Dean Singleton partners with Richard B. Scudder, a third-generation newspaper owner from New Jersey, to form MediaNews Group Inc., an umbrella company, to acquire newspapers. Singleton is president and chief executive officer.

September 1987: Singleton buys The Denver Post from Times Mirror Co. of Los Angeles for $95 million, with about $70 million of that in notes. Four years later, Times Mirror writes down some of the debt in return for a $42 million cash payment. Singleton names Moe Hickey, former publisher of The Detroit News, as publisher of The Post.

1988: To tackle circulation problems, The Post shifts to all-adult carriers and institutes a centralized billing system that allows subscribers to pay bills by mail. The Post follows through with its vow of daily delivery by 6 a.m., and complaints decline.

October 1989: Singleton names Don Hunt as publisher of The Post after a stormy exit by Hickey.

November 1989: Singleton hires a veteran editor, F. Gilman Spencer, to take the helm of The Post newsroom. Spencer, recently resigned as editor of the New York Daily News, is a surprise choice made by Singleton to coax the best out of a nervous Denver newsroom staff.

June 1993: Hunt steps down as publisher and is succeeded by Ryan McKibben.

October 1995: The corporate headquarters of MediaNews Group is moved to Denver from Houston.

January 1996: After The Rocky Mountain News pulls back circulation to all but 15 Colorado counties, Singleton pledges that The Post will continue to serve all of the state, giving it a 125,000-copy lead on Sunday circulation and drawing even on daily copies.

Oct. 20, 1996: The Denver Post announces to Sunday readers that it has recaptured the daily circulation lead from the rival Rocky Mountain News after a 17-year battle. For the six-month period ending Sept. 30, 1996, The Post averages daily circulation of 334,436 copies; the News reports 316,872. Post Sunday circulation is 461,837; the News is 406,503, per the Audit Bureau of Circulations publisher's statements.

December 1997: After acquiring the Los Angeles Daily News from Tower Media Inc., MediaNews Group and its affiliates now own 34 daily newspapers and 105 non-daily publications in 11 states with a circulation in excess of 2.3 million. The Singleton-Scudder partnership is now the nation's eighth-largest newspaper owner — ahead of E.W. Scripps, owner of The Rocky Mountain News.

January 2001: Attorney General Janet Reno approves a joint operating agreement between The Post and The Rocky Mountain News, merging the papers' business functions into The Denver Newspaper Agency to keep the failing Rocky alive. Singleton chairs it for the first four years. He is also named publisher of The Post, replacing Gerald Grilly.

May 2002: Singleton hires a new editor, Gregory L. Moore, from the Boston Globe.

February 2009: After failing to find a buyer, E.W. Scripps closes The Rocky Mountain News.

January 2010: In a pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Affiliated Media Inc., holding company for MediaNews Group, and its lenders agree to restructure $930 million in debt. The agreement swaps debt for equity, retains current management and excludes all of the company's media properties, including The Post. After owning as much as 45 percent of MediaNews Group at one time, Singleton's interest falls to less than 20 percent. MediaNews Group is the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher by circulation, with 54 daily newspapers and more than 100 non-daily newspapers in 12 states.

January 2011: Singleton, chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group, announces he will step down to become executive chairman in a management realignment after a new CEO is named. He remains chairman and publisher of The Denver Post and The Salt Lake Tribune.

September 2011: John Paton is named chief executive of MediaNewsGroup and also Digital First Media, a new company created to manage the news properties of MediaNews and the Journal Register Co., of New York. Owner of the Journal Register is Alden Global Capital, which became an investor in MediaNews in 2010.

Nov. 4, 2013: William Dean Singleton, 62, retires from MediaNews Group, but remains as non-executive chairman of The Denver Post. President and CEO Mac Tully becomes publisher.

Compiled by Vickie Makings, The Denver Post Research Library