BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge is reporting that its publisher has signed a letter of intent to sell the paper to New Orleans businessman John Georges.

The Advocate reports ( ) that the deal is expected to close by June 1. Terms were not disclosed.

The Advocate's average weekday circulation is about 98,000 and Sunday circulation is about 125,000 — boosted by its recent entry into the New Orleans market.

David Manship is publisher of The Advocate and chief operating officer of Capital City Press, which owns it.

He and Richard Manship, president and chief executive officer of Capital City Press, announced the agreement in a news release but would not comment further.

David Manship said the sale will be a stock sale with no planned interruption in business.

"We are extremely happy about the prospect of selling our family newspaper to a Louisiana businessman with strong ties to Louisiana," David Manship said.

Georges declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Georges, 52, whose business holdings range from food service distribution to Galatoire's restaurant, said in January that he had a "serious interest" in buying The Advocate and that he expected any official offer for the newspaper would be before the summer.

Georges had approached Capital City Press about 20 months ago about buying The Advocate. Georges had said his talks with the Manship family, which owns Capital City Press, were put on hold for several months while the newspaper launched its daily New Orleans edition.

The Advocate, which employs about 450 people, launched the edition in October after The Times-Picayune in New Orleans decided to switch to a three-day-a-week print edition.

Georges Enterprises, a billion-dollar business, owns and manages a variety of Louisiana-based companies. Among those is the 98-year-old family business Imperial Trading Co., which was started by his maternal grandfather, a Greek immigrant named C.H. Pelias. Imperial Trading, a wholesale grocery company, has branches throughout the South, distributing goods to convenience stores. Other business interests are 68-year-old AMA Distributors; 91-year-old Harrison Co. in Bossier; and 108-year-old Galatoire's restaurant in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

The Advocate's name goes back to The Democratic Advocate, a weekly newspaper established in 1842. Charles P. Manship Sr. in 1912 formed Capital City Press, which at one time operated an afternoon paper and continues to run The Advocate.

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