Venezuela media group sold

The Venezuelan media group Cadena Capriles, which owns the country's largest circulation newspaper, announced it is being sold to an unidentified group of local investors.

Miguel Angel Capriles, the group's president, announced the sale in a notice to employees disclosed on the website of its flagship daily, Ultimas Noticias, an influential tabloid with broad national circulation.

The announcement said the group and all its assets were being acquired by "a known Venezuelan investor group," which will take over management of the company over a 60 day period. It did not further identify the group.

Ultimas Noticias has a daily circulation of 270,000 and 350,000 on weekends. Its editor Eleazar Diaz Rangel is considered close to the government, but opposition columnists are well represented on its op ed page.

Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader who is challenging the outcome of April 14 presidential elections to replace the late Hugo Chavez, is distantly related to the group's owners but has no stake in the company.

The sale comes amid controversy over the acquisition of the country's last opposition television news channel, Globovision, by a group of little-known investors who have moved to tone down coverage.

The media has been a key battleground for Venezuela's leftist government, which has expanded a state-controlled media apparatus while creating legal and regulatory obstacles to privately owned news outlets.

"Globovision was an uncomfortable channel for the government, very critical and confrontational, but the Cadena Capriles is a different case. Ultimas Noticias makes a lot of money from government advertising," said Marcelino Bisbal, a communications professor at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro controls the state-run Venezolana de Television, which carries live coverage of the activities of the president and members of his government, as well as Telesur, an international news network, and local channels.

It also makes frequent use of its power to take over Venezuelan air waves for mandatory government broadcasts.