A group of Maine investors that includes former Defense Secretary William Cohen has signed a letter of intent to buy The Seattle Times Co.'s three daily newspapers in that state.

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A group of Maine investors that includes former Defense Secretary William Cohen has signed a letter of intent to buy The Seattle Times Co.’s three daily newspapers in that state.

The Portland Press Herald reported Thursday that Maine Media Investments and The Times plan to begin negotiations soon. The sale isn’t a sure thing, a Times official cautioned.

The Times Co. put the Press Herald, (Augusta) Kennebec Journal, (Waterville) Morning Sentinel and its other Maine assets up for sale in March, saying it needed cash to help its flagship newspaper in Seattle survive an industry-wide drop in advertising revenue.

The Times paid more than $200 million for the papers in 1998, but observers have said it would be lucky to sell them now for half that amount.

In addition to Cohen, a former Maine senator, other principals in Maine Media Investments include Richard Connor, editor and publisher of the Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Times Leader.