Industry

Flurry of end of year sales caps off a very active market in 2015 for newspaper transactions

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A flurry of newspaper sales in December served as a fitting ending to a year that saw families getting out of the business after generations of ownership—and other family groups often snapping up properties. 

Brokers throughout 2015 reported keen interest in newspapers, with pent-up demand combining with more accessible financing fueling the strong market for papers.  

Another factor in the active market for newspapers, the brokerage firm Dirks, Van Essen & Murray noted in a report on 3rd quarter sales: “Public companies, after years of sitting on the acquisition sidelines, have accounted for 91% of the dollar volume of daily newspaper transactions so far in 2015. This includes acquisitions by New Media, Gannett and Tribune Publishing.”

Below are details on some of the December sales, with more undoubtedly to come by New Year’s Eve, after The Inlander goes to press.

Schurz Communications sells four papers to Boone Newspapers affiliate

Schurz Communications is selling four of its Kentucky newspapers to a newly formed entity, Bluegrass Newsmedia LLC, that is managed by Boone Newspapers Inc. (BNI) of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The sale includes The Advocate-Messenger in Danville, The Winchester Sun, The Jessamine Journal and The Interior Journal in Stanford. 

Randy Cope, managing director at Cribb, Greene & Cope represented Schurz Communications Inc. in the transaction, which was expected to close in January.

Larry Hensley will remain publisher of all four properties. 

“We are pleased Larry Hensley will continue to lead your newspapers,” Todd Carpenter, president and CEO of BNI, said in a statement to the company’s new employees. “We have much in common with Larry and with your organization. We are publishers by practice and background, not financial investors. Our company is built on sound community publishing principles and led by people who have practiced and are practicing those principles as newspaper publishers now.”

BNI manages newspapers in similar sized communities in Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Michigan. In October, BNI acquired The State Journal in Frankfort.

Schurz Communications, Inc. (SCI) of South Bend, Indiana, began exploration of a sale in the fall. SCI has owned The Advocate-Messenger since 1978, and acquired the other three papers at various times subsequently. 

In a statement to employees, SCI President Todd Schurz thanked them for their “hard work, commitment and dedication.” He also praised BNI, saying, “Boone’s philosophy revolves around the word ‘quality,’ and the new owners operate 70 newspapers and shoppers in a dozen states, including Frankfort’s State Journal. … I believe this combination will provide the best opportunity for these companies, communities and staffs to thrive in the future.”

Adams buys Dix Communications’ Defiance Crescent-News, Ohio group

Adams Publishing Group LLC has purchased the Defiance Publishing Company LLC from Dix Communications. 

Defiance Publishing Company publishes The Crescent-News, a six-day daily serving Defiance, Ohio, with a distribution of 14,000 on weekdays and 15,300 on Sundays. It also publishes Crescent–Extra, a free weekly shopper mailed to 9,200 households in Defiance and Napoleon, and Northwest Ohio Homes Magazine and Northwest Ohio Auto Book.

Cribb, Greene & Cope, a newspaper brokerage, appraisal, and consulting firm with offices in Montana, Virginia and Missouri, represented Dix Communications in the transaction. Terms were not disclosed.

With the deal, Defiance Publishing will be part of APG Media of Ohio, headquartered in Athens, Ohio.

APG said Steve VanDemark, a 44-year employee of the company, will continue to serve as publisher.

“We are very excited to begin working with Steve and his team in Defiance and proud that a publication with such a fine reputation for producing quality news products is now part of our Ohio group,” said Monica Nieporte, president and publisher of APG Media of Ohio.

Adams Publishing Group, LLC, a family-owned media company headquartered in St. Louis Park, Minn., produces community newspapers, events, digital products and specialty magazines serving communities in Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Idaho, Michigan and Ohio.

The Adams family also owns radio stations, outdoor advertising companies and Camping World/Good Sam, a national distributor of recreational vehicles and camping-related products and services.

Dix Communications had owned and operated the newspaper and related products for the past 64 years, purchasing it from the Lee Tustison in 1951.

“We are excited about Adams as buyers as they are a family business, like we were, that we think will value content and products, will honor and invest in the community, and will retain and hire talented people,” said Dix Communications President G. Charles (Chuck) Dix II. 

Winery owner buys his hometown paper 

Northern Virginia Media Services has sold Middleburg Life, a monthly tabloid newspaper, to David Greenhill, president of a satellite communications company and owner of a winery located in Middleburg.

Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, the merger and acquisition firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, advised HPR-Hemlock LLC, the parent company of Northern Virginia Media Services, in the sale. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Northern Virginia Media Services in November sold two weeklies, Leesburg Today and Ashburn Today to Virginia News Group, which publishes the Loudoun Times-Mirror, a weekly based in Leesburg. 

Greenhill said Middleburg Life will continue to be edited by Vicki Moon with writer Len Shapiro remaining on staff. The paper, which had been distributed through Leesburg Today, reported a circulation of about 16,000 under its previous ownership. 

Greenhill said Middleburg Life readers shouldn’t expect any significant changes to the print publication, but will likely see an expanded digital presence.

Greenhill is president of Satcom Direct, a satellite communications firm, and in 2013 purchased the Swedenburg Estate Winery, which he renamed Greenhill Winery and Vineyards. 

Erie Times-News sold to GateHouse Media

The Times Publishing Co. has entered into an agreement to sell the Erie (Pa.) Times-News and GoErie.com to an entity controlled by New Media Investment Group, the holding company of GateHouse Media. 

The transaction, which is subject to approval by Times Publishing Co. shareholders, is expected to close in early 2016. 

Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, a merger and acquisition firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico represented the Mead family, the owners of Times Publishing Co., in the sale. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 

The Mead family had owned Times Publishing Co. either in part or in its entirety since its founding 127 years ago. 

“The Meads have been good stewards of this community institution,” Ken Nelson, publisher of the Erie Times-News said in a statement. “But the industry, and this newspaper, have evolved to the point where family-owned, independent newspapers face too many hurdles to survive long term without help.”

New Media offers resources and economies of scale that will allow the institution to endure, Nelson added. GateHouse controls 575 community publications across 32 states. 

The Times-News has a circulation of approximately 40,000 daily and 55,000 on Sunday. 

“Though the Mead family is leaving the newspaper business, the business will remain,” Nelson said. “We will continue to be the region’s dominant source for news for years to come.”

Gothenburg Times changes hands for first time in 38 years

The Gothenburg Times in Gothenburg, Nebraska, has new ownership for the first time since 1977.

Scott Wesner and Scott Wood, high school classmates who both have extensive newspaper experience, purchased the newspaper effective December 2, 2015, under the name Platte Valley Media, LLC.

The Gothenburg Times is a weekly newspaper with a long history serving its Nebraska market. 

Julie Bergman of WB Grimes and Company represented the Greg and Kathi Viergutz and Gothenburg Publishing Company in the sale. 

“We’re really excited to be the new owners of the Gothenburg Times,” Wood said. “In the time that we’ve spent here so far, it’s apparent that Gothenburg is a wonderful community and we’re very excited to be involved in it.”

In a statement, Wesner added, “We’re really looking forward to being here. It’s an amazing community and we’ve both been very impressed with everything that Gothenburg has going for it in a town this size.” Wood added, “We’re looking forward to continuing the great tradition of community journalism that is the legacy of the Viergutz family these past years.”

The Gothenburg Times has previously only been owned by two families in its history that dates back to 1908. Greg Viergutz and his father, Vance, purchased the paper in 1977 from the Holmes family, founders of the Times.

Champion’s MCM buys Ohio weeklies

The sale of The Clermont Sun in Batavia, Ohio, and The Brown County  (Ohio) Press in Mt. Orab to MCM Ohio LLC, an entity owned by Scott Champion, has closed, reported Randy Cope, a managing director of the newspaper brokerage firm Cribb, Greene & Cope.

The papers were sold by The Clermont Sun Publishing Company, owned Bill and Mary Pat Latham. Cribb, Greene & Cope represented the sellers. No terms of the transaction were disclosed. 

Tony Adams will continue to be the general manager of The Clermont Sun

MCM also owns the Thief River Falls (Minn.) Times

BizWest Media sells Wyoming Business Report to Adams Publishing Group

BizWest Media LLC sold Wyoming Business Report, the only statewide newspaper devoted to business news, to a subsidiary of Adams Publishing Group LLC, the family-owned media company headquartered in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

In the wake of the deal, Wyoming Business Report became the sister publication to several newspapers in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Ken Amundson, senior associate for W.B. Grimes & Company, represented BizWest Media in the sale.

Under APG Media of the Rockies, Wyoming Business Report will join the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne, the Laramie Boomerang, the Rawlins Daily Times and the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner in a new media entity created when APG bought the McCracken Newspaper Group in October. It also bought the Post Register in Idaho Falls, Idaho in November.

The sale marks the first time the Wyoming Business Report has been directly affiliated with any other Wyoming newspaper. Wyoming Tribune Eagle Publisher Scott Walker said the sisterhood between Wyoming’s only statewide business publication and four community newspapers across the I-80 corridor will lead to great synergies and improve all the papers.

“None of the daily papers have a business reporter,” he said. “I think it’s just a good opportunity and Wyoming Business Report has always been a big part of state. We want to continue that tradition and try to grow from it.”

Failing to find buyers, Trib Total Media shutters papers

Trib Total Media closed two Pennsylvania  newspapers—The Daily News in McKeesport and The Valley Independent in Monessen—on Dec. 31 after it failed to find a buyer for the publications. 

The closures were part of a Trib Total Media restructuring of its Pennsylvania properties announced last summer. In October, the company sold the Leader Times in Kittanning, The Daily Courier in Connellsville, The Laurel Group papers and The Dispatch in Blairsville to West Penn Media, Inc. an affiliate of Sample Media Group.

 Trib Total Media also announced plans to consolidate three of its dailies into a single daily called the Tribune Review

The newspaper closures resulted in the layoffs of 87 employees. The Valley Independent had been publishing since 1902; the The Daily News since 1884.

“We have been in talks with interested buyers for these papers since August but nothing ever came to fruition,” said Jennifer Bertetto, president and CEO of Trib Total Media. “Unfortunately, we had to make the difficult decision to close these papers in order to improve the financial health of the company.”

Victoria Advocate parent and Texas Community Media combine operations

Family-owned Victoria Advocate Publishing Company, with media properties in South Texas, and Texas Community Media, with properties in East Texas, have combined to form M. Roberts Media. 

“Bringing our South Texas and East Texas operations under the same umbrellas will be seamless for our customers,” said Stephen N. McHaney, president of the new company and publisher of the Longview News-Journal. “The move is aimed primarily at increasing efficiency behind the scenes.”

The company takes its name from Morris Roberts, who was among a group of local businessmen who bought the Victoria Advocate in 1942. In 1961, Roberts purchased all the stock in the company, sharing with his son, John M. Roberts, who is chairman of the board, and daughter, Catherine R. McHaney, who is secretary-treasurer.

Stephen N. McHaney, Roberts’ grandson, represents the third in the business, along with Dan Easton, who is married to Roberts’ granddaughter and is publisher of the Advocate.

In addition to its newspaper business, M. Roberts Media operates Advocate Digital Media, a marketing solutions agency; a commercial printing and distribution business; and events production and marketing services.