Liberty Group Publishing plans to become the first newspaper company to go public since Journal Register Co. ("JRC") in May 1997.
Liberty burst onto the newspaper scene that same year with a $310 million acquisition of 56 small daily newspapers from Hollinger International, Inc. It now owns 67 dailies and 140 paid non-dailies, including a large suburban weekly group in the greater Chicago area.
The company, owned principally by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners of Los Angeles, plans to sell up to $225 million in common stock through the initial public offering. No timetable for the sale or other details have been released.
In 1997 JRC sold 9.4 million common shares at $14 per share, with net proceeds of approximately $119 million.
Liberty’s registration statement shows that the company in 2001 generated $195.2 million in revenue and $52.1 million in EBITDA before corporate expenses and management fees to Leonard Green.
Operating EBITDA margins at the newspapers have been running at 26 percent to 28 percent over the past two years, and cash flow was up significantly in the first three months of 2002. The company is composed primarily of isolated, small-market dailies and weeklies, but includes suburban operations as well.
The proceeds of the IPO will be used to pay down debt.