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AIM Media unit buys Civitas Media's Ohio newspapers

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AIM Media Midwest LLC has acquired all of Civitas Media's Ohio newspapers and other assets in a transaction that includes 17 daily newspapers including its Ohio flagship Lima News.

Civitas Media, headquartered in Davidson, North Carolina, is a portfolio company of Philadelphia-based private equity investment firm Versa Capital Management LLC and has been shedding its newspaper-related assets across the country.

Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, a media merger and acquisition firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, represented Civitas Media in the transaction. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. 

The sale of the 17 Civitas dailies includes one in West Virginia. Also included in the sale were 15 weekly publications and a number of shoppers and niche magazines and a commercial printing operation. 

When the deal closed, AIM announced that all Ohio employees working directly for any of the individual newspaper publications will be hired immediately and continue in their respective positions with the new company. In addition, AIM said it was hiring "a select group of employees" who worked in corporate or centralized functions in Ohio. 

"Civitas is one of the most respected and admired publishing companies principally serving local community markets in the United States," Jeremy L. Halbreich, chairman and CEO of AIM, said in a statement. Halbreeich is president of the Inland Press Foundation and the former chairman and CEO of Sun-Times Media LLC in Chicago. He is also the former founder, chairman, president and CEO of American Consolidated Media in Dallas, and former president and general manager of The Dallas Morning News.

Halbriech said he and AIM President and COO Rick Starks, the former CEO of Ohio Community Media LLC, had "become well acquainted with the senior leadership at Civitas and at Versa and we salute their demonstrated commitment and support to these local communities throughout their years of ownership." 

Halbreich added: "We are gratified by Civitas' and Versa's confidence in us as publishers of local, community newspapers to build on their recent history and allow us to enhance the focus on community service. We look forward to providing the guidance and direction necessary for these publications and our new employees to engage their local audiences and set the civic agenda and discourse both online and in print for the communities they serve."

"I am pleased to have AIM, a first-rate organization, run by such high-quality and respected media industry leaders as Jeremy Halbreich and Rick Starks, acquire Civitas' Ohio and West Virginia properties," Civitas CEO Lior Yahalomi said in a statement. "I also want to express my thanks to all of our Civitas Ohio and West Virginia employees for their long-term, loyal and conscientious service. I wish them all the best as they transition to be an integral part of the AIM organization and culture."

AIM Media Midwest is an affiliate of AIM Media companies in Texas and Indiana, all of which are managed by AIM Media Management of Dallas, Texas, where Halbreich serves as chairman and CEO and Starks serves as president and COO. Both are 40-plus year veterans of the newspaper publishing industry. In addition, Halbreich is an Ohio native, born in Cleveland.