Fourth Quarter: Harris leads list
The year finished on a strong note with a number of transaction announcements, including one of the largest deals of the year – the sale of Kansas-based Harris Enterprises.
The fourth quarter activity pushed the number of daily newspapers sold in 2016 to an even 50. Privately held group owners, including Boone Newspapers, Community Media Group and others, were among the buyers in the year’s final quarter, along with public companies New Media Investment Group and McClatchy Co.
Sellers were dominated by independent owners and small family-owned newspaper companies, continuing a trend that has been an industry theme throughout 2016.
In the Land of Oz
In the most significant transaction of the fourth quarter, New Media Investment Group acquired six newspapers in Kansas and Iowa from family-owned Harris Enterprises.
The Harris group included the 26,200-circulation Hutchinson (KS) News, the 24,900-circulation Salina (KS) Journal, the 15,200 Burlington (IA) Hawk Eye, the 8,000-circulation Hays (KS) Daily News, the 6,700-circulation Garden City (KS) Telegram and the 3,600-circulation Ottawa (KS) Herald.
The deal augmented News Media’s presence in Kansas, where it already owned seven small-market dailies. The Burlington, Iowa newspaper also complements New Media’s holdings in that state and in western Illinois.
The Harris family got into the newspaper business in 1907 with the purchase of the Ottawa Herald, now the smallest paper in the group. Third and fourth generation Harris family members owned the company at the time of the sale.
“The families agreed earlier this year that the changes in the media landscape necessitated getting much bigger or turning over these newspapers to a larger owner,” said Bruce Buchanan, president of Harris. “(New Media) has a broad footprint and can compete on a national level while retaining a commitment to doing what newspapers do best, which is serving the local communities.”
Harris grew after 1907 by adding newspapers in Parsons, Chanute and Olathe, Kansas, as well as those still owned by the company at the time of sale. The operations in Parsons and Chanute were sold in 2008.
Home on LaGrange
Boone Newspapers added to its holdings in the Southeast by acquiring the LaGrange (GA) Daily News from Civitas Media.
The Daily News becomes the fourth newspaper in Georgia owned by Boone or its affiliates; the others are located in the southern part of the state. In the Southeast, Boone has newspapers in Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina and Louisiana. It has properties in other parts of the country as well.
The LaGrange Daily News was part of a family-owned group known as Mid-South Management until its sale to Heartland Publications in 2007. Heartland became part of Civitas in 2012.
Filling the Triangle
McClatchy, owner of the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, acquired the nearby Durham Herald-Sun to give the company full coverage of the region known as the Research Triangle.
The Durham newspaper had been owned by Paxton Media Group since 2004, when it bought the operation from the local Rollins family. Paxton owns other newspapers in the area, including those in Sanford and High Point.
The deal brings California-based McClatchy’s newspaper holdings to 30 dailies across 14 states, including seven in North and South Carolina. Paxton has 36 dailies primarily spread across the Southeast and Midwest.
The Perrotto family’s Community Media Group added small-market newspapers in southeast Iowa and western Illinois to its portfolio in the Midwest.
Community Media bought newspapers in Keokuk and Fort Madison, Iowa, and Carthage, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from Brehm Communications. The Brehm family had owned the core of the group since 1919.
Community Media owns daily and weekly newspapers in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York.
An affiliate of Horizon Publications acquired the Forrest City (AR) Times-Herald and related publications from local owners.
The McCollum family had owned the Forrest City newspaper since 1942. Horizon owns community newspapers in a number of states and provinces in the United States and Canada.
Cedar Rapids Media Co. acquired a group of small-market newspapers in southeastern Iowa from family-owned Inland Industries. The newspapers, located in Fairfield, Mount Pleasant and Washington, Iowa, are just north of the Brehm operations bought by Community Media.
The Murray family, owners of Inland Industries, bought the Mount Pleasant News in 1971. The other two newspapers were added in subsequent years.
Paddock Strikes Gold
Soon after getting a foothold in southern Illinois earlier this year, Paddock Publications, owner of the Daily Herald in Chicago’s Arlington Heights area, added a group of weeklies and a printing plant in the region.
Paddock acquired four weeklies south of Springfield from Gold Nugget Publications, which has been owned by the Jones family for nearly 100 years. Paddock’s earlier acquisition in the region, from New Media Investment Group, included 12 daily and weekly publications serving seven counties in southern Illinois.
The Daily Herald is one of the largest family-owned newspapers in the country and has been published in the Chicago suburbs since 1872.
Richner Strikes Gold Too
Richner Communications, Long Island’s largest publisher of community newspapers, added the weekly Gold Coast Gazette, which serves communities along the northern shore of Long Island.
Richner publishes 17 newspapers along the southern coast of Long Island, among other publications in the area. The Gold Coast Gazette was started in 1991 by the mother and son team of Patricia and Kevin Horton.
The Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians bought the Jackson (CA) Amador Ledger-Dispatch and plan to merge it with its other newspaper operations in the area. The newspaper serves a community in the gold rush country of Northern California.
Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and his wife Elizabeth sold their weekly newspapers in Putnam County, New York, to their editor, Douglas Cunningham.