Deal Activity Surges in 2nd Quarter: Large and small owners add to regional holdings in numerous transactions
The second quarter saw a flurry of newspaper transactions as both group and family owners sold properties.
On the buy side, the activity drew a mixture of large, established newspaper companies, smaller privately held concerns, and in one case, a newly formed company owned by an experienced industry executive.
Jeremy Halbreich’s AIM Media expanded in the Midwest with the acquisition of a large publishing group in Ohio. Hearst Newspapers made a splash in Connecticut by picking up the New Haven Register and other titles in the state. Lee Enterprises, New Media Investment Group and Ogden Newspapers were among the other large players adding newspapers in the second quarter.
Veteran newspaper executive Scott Champion acquired clusters of daily and weekly newspapers in North Carolina and South Carolina to create Champion Media. Champion also owns some smaller newspapers in the Midwest.
AIMing for Growth
AIM Media expanded its presence in the Midwest with the acquisition of 17 daily newspapers and associated non-daily and online publishing operations principally in western and southeastern Ohio. The deal also included commercial printing assets in both parts of the state.
Through a separate entity, AIM Media also owns newspaper operations in Indiana, which it acquired in 2015. Its other newspapers are located in south Texas.
The Ohio operations were bought from Civitas Media. This was one of several transactions in the second quarter in which Civitas divested a portion of its newspaper properties.
The western Ohio group is anchored by the 20,000-circulation Lima (OH) News, which Civitas acquired from Freedom Communications in 2012. The majority of the remaining western Ohio properties, including newspapers in Troy, Piqua, Sidney, Delaware, Washington Courthouse and elsewhere, were owned by Brown Publishing and bought following a bankruptcy proceeding by a predecessor company to Civitas in 2011.
The southeastern Ohio group operates from a central production facility in Gallipolis and includes dailies in Portsmouth and Pomeroy, Ohio, and Point Pleasant, West Virginia. These newspapers were part of Heartland Publications, which was acquired by Civitas in 2012.
AIM Media Management is based in Dallas, where Halbreich serves as chairman and CEO. Rick Starks is president and chief operating officer. Starks had previously operated the former Brown Publishing newspapers following that company’s bankruptcy.
Hearst Goes to Yale
Hearst Newspapers added to its stable of newspapers in Connecticut by acquiring three daily newspapers from Digital First Media – the 26,700-circulation New Haven Register, the Middletown Press and Torrington Register Citizen. New Haven is home to Yale University.
The deal expands Hearst’s presence in Connecticut to eight dailies, 11 weeklies and a number of digital properties. Hearst’s other Connecticut newspapers are located in the southwestern part of the state, principally in Fairfield County. In total, Hearst now owns 22 daily newspapers and 64 weeklies in the U.S.
Digital First Media got the Connecticut group as part of its acquisition of Journal Register Company in 2011. The sale to Hearst also included Connecticut Magazine.
The New Haven Register was founded in 1812, the same year America declared war on Great Britain in the War of 1812.
Lee Crosses Ol’ Man River
Lee Enterprises tied up the entire Quad Cities area by adding the Dispatch-Argus in Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, located across the Mississippi River from its operations in Davenport, Iowa.
The Dispatch-Argus, with average daily circulation of more than 20,000, had been owned by the privately held Small Newspaper Group since 1969. Small consolidated the Moline Dispatch with the Rock Island Argus after buying the Argus in 1986. Small will continue to own other newspapers in Illinois and Minnesota.
Lee, which also is headquartered in Davenport, has owned the Davenport Quad-City Times since 1899, but has never had a significant presence on the Illinois side of the market. The Quad Cities are Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side of the river, and Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois side.
Debbie Anselm, publisher of the Quad-City Times and Muscatine Journal, will also become publisher of the Dispatch-Argus. However, the Dispatch-Argus will have a separate general manager and will maintain a separate editorial voice.
Len R. Small, president and CEO of Small Newspaper Group, said the decision to sell the Dispatch-Argus was driven by a desire to have a more manageable footprint in the Midwest.
And the Antelope Play
The Markham family sold the daily Antelope Valley Press, located in Palmdale, northeast of Los Angeles in Southern California, to a new company headed by longtime newspaper publisher Steven Malkowich. The new owners have newspaper assets in the U.S. and Canada, including several in California.
The Markham family had owned the Antelope Valley Press since 1958. The newspaper, with 11,000 daily circulation and 18,000 on Sunday, was founded in 1915 and has long been the newspaper of record for this fast-growing area of Southern California.
Former publisher William Markham said it was “time for our family to make way for others with greater resources than ours.”
We Are the Champions
Veteran newspaper executive Scott Champion acquired five daily newspapers and 17 weekly titles in North Carolina and South Carolina from Civitas Media.
The newly formed Champion Media now owns two clusters in North Carolina – one centered on Lumberton in the southeastern part of the state and one headquartered in Mount Airy in the northwest corner of the state. The Lumberton group also includes dailies in Rockingham, Clinton and Laurinburg.
In addition, Champion Media bought non-daily newspapers in Newberry, Union, Pickens and Easley, South Carolina.
The newspapers were part of Civitas Media’s acquisition of Heartland Publications in 2012. Heartland had assembled the groups in multiple transactions, including acquisitions from Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. and Mid-South Management.
Scott Champion also owns newspapers in Ohio and Minnesota through his company MCM and his family operated shoppers in the 1960s. In his career Champion has held leadership positions with American Publishing, Liberty Group Publishing, GateHouse Media and Ohio Community Media. Scott’s son Corey Champion is joining him in Champion Media.
Civitas Divestitures Continued
Phillips Media Group bought the daily Sedalia (MO) Democrat and related printing operation from Civitas Media. The Sedalia operation was part of Civitas’ acquisition of several newspapers from Freedom Communication in 2012.
The newspaper will supplement Phillips’ holdings in Missouri and Arkansas, which include six weeklies and a daily south of Sedalia in the Springfield area.
HD Media, owner of the Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch, acquired a Civitas cluster near its existing operations in the western part of the state that included the dailies Logan Banner and Williamson Daily News.
Finally, a unit of Alabama-based Lancaster Management bought two Civitas newspapers and related publications in eastern Kentucky where Lancaster owns a publishing cluster. The acquired newspapers were the Floyd County Times in Prestonsburg and Hazard Herald.
Calkins Sheds Newspapers
Calkins Media sold its newspapers in two transactions to New Media Investment Group and Ogden Newspapers.
New Media acquired the Doylestown (PA) Intelligencer, the Burlington County (NJ) Times and the Bucks County (PA) Courier, all in the greater Philadelphia area, along with the Beaver (PA) County Times in western Pennsylvania. New Media also got Calkins Digital.
Ogden Newspapers bought the Uniontown (PA) Herald-Standard, located in southwestern Pennsylvania near the West Virginia line.
Earlier in 2017, Calkins, which had been family owned for 80 years, sold its broadcast television stations.
Family Exits in Eau Claire
The fifth-generation family owners of the Eau Claire (WI) Leader-Telegram and related publications sold its publishing operations to Adams Publishing Group, which has other holdings in northern Wisconsin.
In addition to the daily Leader-Telegram, the deal included a commercial printing operation, a weekly agricultural newspaper and a shopper.
Adams acquired a number of community newspapers in northwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota in 2014 from American Consolidated Media. These included the Ashland Daily Times, the Spooner Advocate and Sawyer County Record in Hayward on the Wisconsin side.
The Eau Claire newspaper had been owned by the Graaskamp and Atkinson families for 130 years.
New Media Investment Group, through its BridgeTower Media operating unit, bought the Charleston (SC) Regional Business Journal, the Columbia (SC) Regional Business Journal and related publications.
BridgeTower Media is the business-to-business division of New Media with products in more than 20 markets in the U.S.
Benchmark Media bought Harrisburg Magazine and related publications in central Pennsylvania from Davy Goldsmith. Goldsmith had owned the state capital lifestyle magazine for 20 years.
Southern Newspapers bought the Sulphur Springs (TX) News-Telegram from local owners. Southern owns 16 community newspapers, 12 of which are in Texas.
Paddock Publications’ southern Illinois publishing group acquired a non-daily newspaper operation in Carbondale. The deal includes the Carbondale Times, Weekend Times and Nightlife.
Lee Enterprises bought the alternative weekly in Missoula, Montana, where it also owns the daily newspaper. The alternative Missoula Independent will remain editorially independent from the daily Missoulian.
Philip Anschutz’s Clarity Media bought the Colorado Statesman, a political and public policy weekly newspaper in Denver. The Colorado Statesman has been published since 1898.