Year finishes with sales of two large Western dailies
Selective divestitures by larger companies and the sale of a couple of family-owned operations were the highlights of the final quarter of the year.
The deals capped an active year in which more daily newspapers changed hands since the record-setting years of 2006 and 2007, before the onset of the Great Recession.
Tightening the portfolio was the theme for several sellers in the fourth quarter. Halifax Media Group, one of the most active buyers in 2012, sold its only west coast newspapers during the fourth quarter.
In addition, the new owners of Freedom Communications shed their only properties in Colorado, and Community Newspaper Holdings sold a small daily in south Texas.
Local investors acquired the 57,800-circulation Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat and complementary weekly newspapers in Sonoma County from Halifax, which had assumed ownership of the operation at the start of 2012 as part of its purchase of the New York Times regional newspaper group.
The buyers included many of the same investors who had bought the twice-weekly Sonoma Index-Tribune earlier in 2012.
Halifax made additional acquisitions in the Southeast during 2012, and the Santa Rosa group represented its only holdings outside this area. Most of the New York Times regional group’s 13 other daily newspapers are located in the Southeast.
The buyer group in Santa Rosa included Darius Anderson, a Sonoma-based developer and lobbyist; Doug Bosco, a former North Coast U.S. Congressman; and Steve Falk, former publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The New York Times had owned the Press Democrat since 1985, when it purchased the newspaper from the Finley family of Santa Rosa.
Clarity of Vision
The Anschutz Corp.’s Clarity Media Group bought the Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette from Freedom Communications, representing its first newspaper acquisition in the state where Anschutz is headquartered.
In 2011, Denver-based Anschutz got the Oklahoma City (OK) Oklahoman as part of a larger deal that included a number of non-media businesses in Colorado and elsewhere. It got its start in publishing when it bought the San Francisco Examiner, which it sold in 2011. It continues to own the Washington (D.C.) Examiner, launched as a brand extension of the San Francisco operation.
Aaron Kushner and a group of investors acquired the western newspapers of Freedom Communications, including the Gazette, earlier in 2012. Kushner’s group still owns the Freedom newspapers in Arizona and California, including the Orange County Register.
Separately, Freedom added Newport Beach-based Churm Media to augment its Orange County presence. Churm publishes the monthly business magazine OC Metro and three other publications.
The Colorado Springs Gazette is the second largest newspaper in Colorado, behind the Denver Post. It had been owned by Freedom Communications since 1946.
Two in Texas
Texas newspaper publisher Jim Moser added another title to his growing company with the acquisition of the San Marcos (TX) Record in south Texas from CNHI.
Moser’s company, family-owned Moser Community Media, owns non-daily newspapers southeast of San Marcos, serving communities that include Edna, Cuero and Yorktown nearby. Moser bought the Mexia (TX) Daily News in central Texas from CNHI in 2008.
Also in the fourth quarter of 2012, Moser Community Media expanded into northeastern Texas with the acquisition of several non-daily newspapers from the new owners of the daily newspapers in Longview and Marshall.
Jim Moser and his father Charles got their start in Brenham, Texas, as part of the Hartman Newspapers organization.
New Gettysburg Address
The Sample family, which owns a number of community daily newspapers in Pennsylvania and three other states, agreed to buy the 9,300-circulation Gettysburg (PA) Times from local owners.
The Samples reached a deal with the family of former publisher/owner Phil Jones, who died a little more than a year ago. The Jones family had owned the newspaper for about 25 years.
With the addition of the Gettysburg newspaper, the Sample family will own 13 daily newspapers. Their company, Sample News Group, owns newspapers in Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and New Jersey.
The Gettysburg transaction is expected to close in February.
A unit of Boone Newspapers bought the Brookhaven (MS) Daily Leader in southern Mississippi from a local family, adding to its publishing presence in the state.
The Daily Leader had been owned by the Jacobs family since 1958. Boone’s newspapers include the Natchez Democrat, which is about 60 miles west of Brookhaven.
Headquartered in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Boone owns newspapers in eight states, principally in the Southeast and Midwest.
Two Southeast-based family newspaper companies expanded with fourth-quarter acquisitions.
The Shelton family’s Tennessee Valley Printing bought a weekly classified publication serving northern Alabama, southern Tennessee and northeast Mississippi. The Sheltons own daily newspapers in Decatur and Florence in northern Alabama.
The Osteen family of Sumter, South Carolina went west with the acquisition of the weekly Las Cruces (NM) Bulletin. In addition to the daily Sumter Item, the family owns non-daily publications in northern Florida.
Harte-Hanks, a publicly traded direct marketing company, sold its Florida shopper operations to newly formed Coda Media Corp.
Gannett Co. Inc. acquired Rovion, a digital advertising company. Rovion will be managed under Gannett Digital’s PointRoll operation.