Buying Continues in Q2: 30 daily newspapers sold in first half of 2018 as strong trends remain
Transactions involving daily newspapers kept up a solid pace in the second quarter, following a nearly unprecedented amount of activity in the early part of the year.
New Media Investment Group, through its subsidiary GateHouse Media, continued to be an active acquirer, landing two mid-sized daily newspapers. Other companies making acquisitions in the second quarter included Ogden Newspapers, Adams Publishing Group, Tronc, Paxton Media and Black Press.
All of the buyers are significant group owners of newspapers building scale in regions where they already own other publications. On the flip side, sellers were private owners of single newspapers or small groups.
Through the first half of 2018, 24 deals involving 30 daily newspapers have been announced or closed in transactions worth more than $820 million.
New Media Adds Akron
New Media Investment Group augmented its holdings in northeastern Ohio with the addition of the Akron Beacon Journal, acquired from Black Press.
The Beacon Journal joins a number of other New Media newspapers in the region, including dailies in Canton, Massillon, Kent, Alliance, Wooster, Dover-New Philadelphia and other markets. New Media also owns the state capital newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch.
In a separate transaction, Black Press, based in western Canada, bought daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai, Alaska, from New Media. New Media had acquired the Alaska operations from Morris Communications in 2017.
Black Press had owned the Akron Beacon Journal for 11 years. It acquired the daily from McClatchy Co., shortly after McClatchy closed on its acquisition of Knight Ridder (see related story, page 5). All of Black Press’ other U.S. newspapers are located in Washington, California and Hawaii.
In announcing the sale, Black Press president and CEO Rick O’Connor said, “The Beacon Journal is geographically located too far from our other publications for us to provide the kind of leadership the paper needs and community deserves.”
Meanwhile Out West
Approximately 1,300 miles away, New Media separately acquired the 27,000-circulation Pueblo (CO) Chieftain from the Rawlings family. New Media also owns the Tribune-Democrat in nearby La Junta, Colorado.
The Rawlings family had owned the 150-year-old Chieftain since 1918 (see related story, page 6). Robert Hoag Rawlings had been publisher and editor of the newspaper for several decades prior to his death in March 2017. He stipulated that the newspaper was to be sold upon his death and the proceeds placed in the Rawlings Foundation for the betterment of Pueblo and southern Colorado.
His daughter, Jane Rawlings, who had taken control of the newspaper, said it was important that the new owners carry on her family’s legacy in the community.
In announcing the sale, Jason Taylor, president of Western operations for the company’s GateHouse Media subsidiary, said, “GateHouse looks forward to leveraging our national resources to support the community that will enhance the quality of life and help create a stronger community.”
Ogden Takes Ogden
About 18 months after entering Utah with the acquisition of the Provo Daily Herald, Ogden Newspapers looked north for the Standard-Examiner, based coincidentally in the city of Ogden.
The Ogden Standard-Examiner had been owned by Sandusky Newspapers since 1993, when the company bought it from the Hatch family. Sandusky continues to own newspapers in Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan.
In case you are wondering, the city of Ogden was named for a leader of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1800s, no relation to H.C. Ogden, who launched the Wheeling (WV) News in 1890. Ogden owns 45 daily newspapers in 14 states.
Adams Goes Into FL
Adams Publishing Group made its first acquisition in Florida with the purchase of the family-owned Charlotte Sun and related publications serving communities in the Charlotte Harbor area on the state’s southwest coast.
The deal includes the daily Charlotte Sun and non-daily Venice Gondolier among other publications. The Dunn-Rankin family’s Sun Coast Media Group had owned the newspaper operation for 42 years.
Separately, one of the Sun Coast owners, David Dunn-Rankin, bought his family’s Highland News Sun and Polk County newspapers in central Florida.
Sun Coast was founded by Derek Dunn-Rankin in 1976 when he left an executive position at Landmark Communications at age 50 to buy the Venice Gondolier.
Half Moon Bay Goes Local
A group of local residents formed a new company to acquire the Half Moon Bay (CA) Review from Arizona-based Wick Communications.
Additional publications included in the sale were Half Moon Bay Magazine and Pacifica Magazine, both lifestyle magazines; Coastside Guide; Neighbors real estate guide; and an annual restaurant directory, EAT.
Wick Communications, which had owned the newspaper for more than 30 years, continues to own 27 newspapers in 18 markets. The Review was its only newspaper in California.
The owners said they expected the newspaper to operate as a “self-sustaining, independently owned community newspaper.”
Paxton Expands in AR
Paxton Media Group bought the Batesville (AR) Daily Guard from independent owners and will add it to its publishing cluster in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Batesville newspaper will join four other Paxton-owned dailies in northern Arkansas, including the Jonesboro Sun, Paragould Daily Press, Russellville Courier and the Searcy Daily Citizen.
Tronc in the Tidewater
Shortly after closing on the sale of its Los Angeles Times operation, Tronc acquired the Norfolk, Virginia-based Virginian-Pilot to give the company a large regional group in Virginia’s Tidewater area.
The Virginian-Pilot serves Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and other communities on the south side of the Hampton Roads harbor. Tronc already owned the Daily Press, serving Newport News, Hampton and other communities on the northside of the harbor.
The Virginian-Pilot, the state’s largest newspaper, had been owned by Landmark Communications’ Batten family since 1899. Landmark continues to own a group of community newspapers based in Kentucky.
Seaton Buys Close to Home
Family-owned Seaton Publishing Co., based in Manhattan, Kansas, bought the neighboring Junction City Daily Union from Chris Walker.
The transaction also included the First Infantry Division Post weekly newspaper, which the Daily Union produces under a contract with the U.S. Army; and the Wamego Smoke Signal and Wamego Times, both weekly newspapers in Pottawatomie County.
Walker, who owns the Emporia (KS) Gazette, bought the Junction City newspaper from the Montgomery family in 2016.