Regional Buying Drives Deals: Group owners building big clusters for cost control and revenue enhancement
The key acquisition theme of building regional scale continued in the third quarter as group owners added to their holdings in various areas of the country.
Many of the most active buyers in recent years – Adams Publishing, New Media Investment Group, Ogden Newspapers and others – made acquisitions that expanded existing operations.
Adams grew in the Southeast, while New Media bought an anchor daily for its newspapers in Oklahoma. Ogden expanded two clusters – western Pennsylvania and northern Virginia.
Through three quarters of 2018, 38 daily newspapers have changed hands in 29 separate transactions.
Adams Expands in NC and FL
Adams Publishing Group acquired four daily newspapers from Cooke Communications – three in North Carolina and one in Florida – along with related publications and websites in both areas.
Cooke Communications consisted of a cluster of daily and weekly newspapers based in Greenville in eastern North Carolina and the Key West Citizen and complementary publications in south Florida. The North Carolina dailies are the Greenville Daily Reflector, the Rocky Mount Telegram and the Elizabeth City Daily Advance.
The deal expands Adams’ holdings in both states. In North Carolina, the Cooke cluster will join Adams’ operations in the western part of the state. In 2017, Adams acquired a cluster of newspapers based in Mount Airy, and a year earlier bought Tennessee-based Jones Media, which included non-daily newspapers in western North Carolina.
Adams entered Florida last quarter with the acquisition of the daily Charlotte Sun and non-daily Venice Gondolier among other publications on the Gulf Coast. The Dunn-Rankin family had owned those newspaper operations for 42 years.
The Cooke family has a long history in media dating back to Jack Kent Cooke’s association with Lord Thomson in Canada. (see related story). The current generations of the Cooke
family bought the Key West newspaper from Thomson Newspapers in 2000. They acquired the Greenville cluster from Cox Newspapers in 2009.
Cooke will continue to own Two Oceans Digital, KeyWest.com and FloridaKeys.com in south Florida.
For the Greenville Daily Reflector, the deal represented just the third ownership change in the newspaper’s 141-year history. The Whichard family founded the newspaper and built a weekly newspaper group in the region before selling to Cox in 1995.
Sooner or Later
New Media Investment Group added the state capital daily to its holdings in Oklahoma with the acquisition of the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. In addition to the daily, the transaction included the NewsOK website, Big Wing digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City and a direct mail operation in the region.
New Media, through its subsidiary GateHouse Media, owns four other dailies in the state, including those in Bartlesville, Shawnee, Ardmore and Miami.
The Bartlesville newspaper came as part of its acquisition of newspapers from Stephens Media in 2015; Shawnee and Ardmore were part of its purchase of newspapers from Morris Communications in 2007. New Media also owns a business journal in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoman had been owned by The Anschutz Corp. since 2011. It had previously been owned by the Gaylord family.
Separately, New Media bought a majority interest in Rugged Events Holding LLC, which holds Rugged Maniac Obstacle races and other endurance events in the U.S. and Canada.
Rugged Events is a Shark Tank success story, which teamed with Mark Cuban to expand as a result of the popular television show. Rugged Events will become part of New Media’s events operations, which is utilized to increase revenue at its newspaper and other operations.
Canadian Publisher Takes 3
Entities primarily composed of Canadian investors acquired two daily newspapers and a handful of weeklies in New England in three separate transactions.
In the first deal, Triboro Massachusetts News Media bought the 10,400-circulation Attleboro (MA) Sun Chronicle and weekly Foxboro (MA) Reporter from Wisconsin-based United Communications.
United added the Attleboro Sun in 1969, then merged it with the Chronicle two years later. In 1986, United picked up the Foxboro Reporter for the cluster.
Separately, Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers acquired the 3,700-circulation Westerly (RI) Sun from a subsidiary of Record-Journal Publishing, owned by the fourth- and fifth-generation members of the White family.
The White family will continue to own the daily Meriden (CT) Record-Journal and a digital agency in the region. They had owned the Westerly Sun for nearly 20 years.
In the third deal, Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers purchased the South County Independent from New Media Investment Group, which had acquired the weekly from the Sherman family in 2017.
The new owners have newspaper assets throughout Canada and the United States. Nearby operations include the Pawtucket (RI) Times and Woonsocket (RI) Call.
Ogden Takes 2
West Virginia-based Ogden Newspapers added the daily Washington Observer-Reporter in western Pennsylvania to increase its presence in the region. The Washington daily had been owned by the Northrop family for 116 years.
Ogden owns more than 40 daily newspapers, including a sizeable number in northern West Virginia, eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including the Uniontown Herald-Standard and the Altoona Mirror near Washington.
Separately, Ogden acquired the non-daily Loudoun (VA) Times-Mirror from the Arundel family. The Arundels had owned the newspaper since 1963.
Earlier in 2017, Ogden bought daily newspapers in Winchester and Harrisonburg, Virginia from the Byrd family. Other Ogden holdings in the region include the Frederick (MD) News-Post, the Martinsburg (WV) Journal and the Northern Virginia Daily in Strasburg.
McElvy Takes Over Texas Greensheet
A new company formed by Texas publisher Jonathan McElvy acquired the free-distribution Greensheet serving the Houston and Dallas areas.
The Greensheet is a targeted advertising publication that distributes more than 500,000 copies in Houston and Dallas in 19 separate zones each week. In addition, Greensheet.com gets more than one million page views monthly.
The publication was founded in 1970 by Helen Gordon. Her Daughter, Kathy Douglass, had been president of the company since 1993.
McElvy Media Group owns community newspapers in Houston and Charlotte, North Carolina. In the Houston area it publishes The Leader, which serves communities in north Houston, and the Fort Bend Star.
Local Owner Adds Weeklies
Morgan Dickerman’s Wilson (NC) Times bought several non-daily newspapers in the region to expand its local footprint.
The publications serve nearby communities in Kenly, Pine Level, Princeton and Selma, North Carolina. The publications had been owned by Rick Stewart.
Lakeway Sells in FL
Tennessee-based Lakeway Publishers sold two operations in Florida in separate deals.
In the first, David Dunn-Rankin, who recently sold the family’s daily newspaper in Port Charlotte, Florida, bought Lakeway’s four non-daily newspapers in Polk County, Florida. Dunn-Rankin had retained newspapers in Polk and Highland counties from his earlier sale.
Separately, American Hometown Publishing bought Lakeway’s Osceola News-Gazette in Kissimmee, Florida.