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Aug. 29--Knight-Ridder Inc., which owns the San Jose Mercury News, said Monday it will pay $360 million for the profitable Contra Costa Times and three sister publications owned by Lesher Communications Inc., based in Walnut Creek.
The purchase redraws battle lines and reignites a struggle among three major newspaper publishers for circulation and advertising dominance in the lucrative San Francisco Bay Area media market, industry analysts said.
Aside from the Contra Costa Times, Lesher publishes the West County Times in Richmond, the Ledger Dispatch in Antioch, the Valley Times in Pleasanton and several Northern California weeklies and shopping guides.
With the acquisition, Bay Area circulation owned by Knight-Ridder grows to 480,557 weekdays and 549,842 on weekends, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Mercury News' daily circulation is 290,181 and 354,542 on Sundays.
The largest Bay Area newspaper remains the San Francisco Chronicle, with circulation of 499,526 during the week and 660,100 on weekends, when it is combined with the …