03-31-10 | Printable Version

1st Quarter 2010

3/31/2010

Seizing the Right Opportunities
Privately held concerns close newspaper deals in first quarter sales

Major markets saw much of the action in the first quarter of the new decade, as the deal market continued to chug along despite a sluggish national economy.

Entrepreneur Randy Miller and new partners teamed to buy suburban Phoenix operations from Freedom Communications. Meanwhile, David Black sought to end the newspaper war in Honolulu by striking a deal that would consolidate the city’s two daily newspapers.

In addition, an investment group led by Stephens Capital Partners closed on a transaction to buy the Daytona Beach (FL) News-Journal following final court approval.

Phoenix Rises

Miller added to his holdings in Arizona with the addition of Freedom’s Phoenix-area newspapers, which serve many of the city’s suburban communities. Miller also owns the Explorer Newspapers in Tucson, with free weekly distribution in suburban communities of about 50,000.

The Freedom newspapers include the East Valley Tribune, with controlled circulation of nearly 100,000 in eastern suburban communities; the Sun City Daily News-Sun, a small paid daily with free distribution products in Glendale, Peoria and Surprise west of downtown Phoenix; and the Ahwatukee Foothills News, a controlled distribution weekly south of the downtown area.

The 120-year-old East Valley Tribune was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for stories about how police protection suffered while authorities focused on illegal immigration.

In making the acquisition, Miller formed a new company, 1013 Communications LLC, a partnership of his Thirteenth Street Media and 10K Investments owned by Arne Hoel, chairman of Swift Communications, and Brett Coleman. Swift does not have any interest in the partnership. The new company also will own and operate the Explorer Newspapers in Tucson.

Freedom acquired the Phoenix newspapers in 2000 from Thomson Newspapers as part of a series of transactions in which Thomson divested all of its U.S. newspapers.

Thomson had assembled the group through two swaps. Thomson got the East Valley Tribune in 1996 by trading two North Carolina dailies to Cox Enterprises. Thomson got the Sun City operation in 1997 from Ottaway Newspapers in exchange for the Portsmouth (NH) Herald.

Freedom received bankruptcy court approval in March to sell the operations to Miller and Hoel. The deal closed near the end of the month.