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Board meeting set on Bass bid for Times

ST. PETERSBURG - The Poynter Institute board of trustees will meet Friday to further consider an offer by a group of investors to buy the institute's Times Publishing Co. stock. The investor group, which includes Texas billionaire Robert M. Bass, owns a minority share in the Times Publishing Co., publisher of the St. Petersburg Times. In late January the group offered $270-million for the Poynter Institute's controlling shares.

In considering the offer, Poynter trustees will study the charitable purposes and intentions of Nelson Poynter, according to a statement issued after a regular trustees meeting Tuesday.

The institute was founded by Nelson Poynter, the late owner of the Times. Poynter, who died in 1978, sought to keep the newspaper independent and locally owned, and to establish a national journalism education center. To achieve those goals, he founded the Modern Media Institute - now called the Poynter Institute - and gave it the majority of stock in the Times Publishing Co. In turn, most Times stock dividends go to support the institute.

Special counsel from the Miami law firm of Steel, Hector and Davis reassured the trustees Tuesday that as they consider the monetary offer by the Bass group, it is also appropriate to consider Nelson Poynter's intentions.

The Bass group, formally known as the Poynter-Jamison Ventures Limited Partnership, in August 1988 bought 40 percent of the voting class of Times Publishing stock, which is 5.7 percent of all Times stock. The group revealed its holding in October of that year.

In late January, the Bass group offered $270-million for stock in the Times Holding Co., which is held by the Poynter Institute and controls the majority of the Times Publishing Co. stock.

Subsequently, the Bass group last week sued the Times Publishing Co., Times Holding Co. and the Poynter Institute. The Bass group seeks $5.5-million and a recall of the nonvoting stock. The stock recall would substantially increase the group's share of company dividends.

On Tuesday, the Bass group demanded that the suit be heard by a jury. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich.