Family Owners Primary Sellers in 2017: Majority of transactions are independent owners exiting the business
The sale of family-owned newspapers represented the bulk of the deals in the first quarter of 2017, with four of the six announced daily newspaper transactions involving a complete exit from the industry by the owner.
The Dix family in Ohio, Crosbie family in Connecticut, Batdorff family in Michigan and Randall family in Maryland sold or agreed to sell all of their newspaper holdings in the first part of the year. A fifth family owner, Bliss Communications, sold a portion of its properties.
The buyers generally were newspaper owners with operations in the region seeking to benefit from increased scale.
The sales are a continuation of a trend in 2016 in which a number of prominent independent owners, including the Simons family in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Waters family in Columbia, Missouri, decided to sell their newspapers.
New Media Grows in Ohio
New Media Investment Group expanded its footprint in Ohio with the acquisition of five daily newspapers, related publications and printing operations from Dix Communications. The Dix family had been newspaper publishers in Ohio since the late 1800s.
The transaction enhances New Media’s presence in the state, which includes the state capital newspaper Columbus Dispatch, the Canton Repository, the Dover Times-Reporter and the Massillon Independent. The five Dix dailies are in Wooster, Kent, Alliance, Ashland and Cambridge.
Dix Communications started in 1893 when Emmitt C. Dix had a failed venture in the Ohio newspaper business. Five years later, he and his father bought the Wooster Daily Record, which proved to be successful. At one time, Dix owned eight dailies in Ohio and Kentucky.
The Dix family had earlier divested its broadcast television stations. It will continue to operate an ad agency and some radio operations.
Family to Family in CT
The Crosbie family agreed to sell the daily Willimantic Chronicle in eastern Connecticut to New England publisher Michael Schroeder and his family, owner of the New Britain Herald and the Bristol Press in Connecticut and the Block Island Times in Rhode Island.
The Chronicle has the distinction of being the daily newspaper with the longest ownership by the same family in New England – 140 years. The family started the paper five generations ago.
Schroeder’s company, Central Connecticut Communications, bought the New Britain and Bristol newspapers eight years ago from Journal Register Co. Schroeder acquired the Block Island Times in 2015.
The Willimantic Chronicle was started in 1877 by John MacDonald. Four generations followed with his son George A. Bartlett, grandson G. Donald Bartlett, great granddaughter Lucy Bartlett Crosbie and great-great grandson Kevin Bartlett Crosbie. Patrice Crosbie, widow of Kevin Crosbie, is the current publisher.
Ogden Moves into Maryland
West Virginia-based Ogden Newspapers agreed to buy the Frederick (MD) News-Post and related printing operation from the Randall family.
The current owners, which include Myron Randall and his son William, bought out members of the Delaplaine family and other shareholders in 2000. They broke ground on a new production facility in 2006.
The Randall and Delaplaine families have owned and operated the newspaper for 134 years and five generations. Ogden Newspapers traces its start to 1890.
The Frederick News-Post will be Ogden’s first in Maryland; many of its 40 daily newspapers are located in the Mid-Atlantic region and the upper Midwest. In 2016, Ogden acquired the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World and the Provo (UT) Daily Herald.
Hearst Expands in Michigan
Hearst Newspapers grew its footprint in central Michigan with the acquisition of the Pioneer Group from fourth-generation owners Jack and John Batdorff.
The Pioneer Group includes two daily newspapers – the Pioneer in Big Rapids and the Manistee News Advocate – as well as three weekly newspapers, four shoppers and a digital marketing services business. The Pioneer group was founded in 1862 with a four-page weekly newspaper.
Hearst also owns the Huron Daily Tribune in Bad Axe and the Midland Daily News in central Michigan. In 2016, Hearst acquired the Norwalk (CT) Hour, which is adjacent to other Connecticut newspapers owned by Hearst.
Morris Adds WI Daily
Savannah, Georgia-based Morris Multimedia acquired the Monroe (WI) Times and two free weeklies to complement its non-daily group in southern Wisconsin. Family-owned Bliss Communications, headquartered in nearby Janesville, Wisconsin, had owned the Monroe Times for 28 years.
Morris’s non-daily group serves a number of small communities west of Monroe in the southwest corner of Wisconsin. These include Boscobel, Richland Center and Platteville on both sides of the Wisconsin River.
Paging Orson Wells
New Media Investment Group sold its Southern Oregon Media Group to newly formed Rosebud Media LLC, which is owned by New York media owner Steven Saslow.
The group includes the flagship daily Medford Mail Tribune, Ashland Daily Tidings and Nickel shopper publications. New Media acquired the properties as part of a larger transaction in 2013.
The name of the new owner, Rosebud, apparently is a reference to the famous dying word uttered by Orson Welles’ newspaper baron character in the movie Citizen Kane.
Matt Walsh’s Sarasota, Florida-based Observer Group added the Financial News & Daily Record to its stable of non-daily publications. The acquired newspaper had been owned by the Bailey family since it was founded 1912.
Observer Group has 10 weeklies in Florida, including the Business Observer. Most are located on Florida’s west coast south of Tampa. Two are located on the east coast in Ormond Beach and Palm Coast.
Will Fleet and Ralph Alldredge bought the Chino Champion and Chino Hills Champion in Southern California from Champion Publications, owned primarily by Allen McCombs. McCombs has owned the Chino Champion for 60 years.
Fleet and Alldredge are co-owners of the Tracy Press and related publications in Northern California.