03-31-02 | Printable Version

Shepherd Grows Southeast Michigan Group

21st Century Newspapers has added another important segment in its drive to build what has become one of the nation's largest suburban publishing groups.

The company, whose publications circulate primarily in the affluent suburban areas around Detroit, acquired privately held Heritage Newspapers to extend the reach of 21st Century into established communities south of the metropolitan area.

With the addition of approximately 300,000 in primarily paid, non-daily circulation from the Heritage group, 21st Century will now reach more than 1.2 million households in southeastern Michigan. The company now consists of three dailies in Pontiac, Mount Clemons, and Royal Oak and nearly 70 non-daily publications.

“This acquisition fits like a glove into our market expansion plans,” Frank Shepherd, president and chief executive officer of 21st Century, said in making the announcement.

Prior to the acquisition, 21st Century’s presence in the Detroit area was concentrated primarily in the northern suburban communities.

The cornerstones of the Heritage group are a pair of twice-weekly newspapers serving the Dearborn and “Downriver” communities south of Detroit. The 76,000-circulation News-Herald, known as the voice of Downriver, has been recognized as one of the best non-dailies of its size in the country.

Heritage also publishes newspapers in communities around Ann Arbor and in suburban Flint. Dan P. Smith, former vice president of community newspapers for Morris Communications in Augusta, Georgia, was hired as the new president of Heritage.

The Heritage publications will become part of 21st Century’s Greater Detroit Newspaper Network, which handles national and regional advertising for the group. GDNN includes an alternate delivery system established last year that can provide saturation preprint delivery in a plastic bag delivered by carriers.

Shepherd says 21st Century, which got on the map in 1997 with its purchase of the Pontiac daily, remains in an acquisition mode.

“The best is yet to come,” Shepherd said. “Our management team will continue to work on other acquisitions that could increase our titles to over 100 in the near future, making us the largest group in the Midwest and one of the largest in the United States.”

Prior to starting 21st Century, Shepherd was president and CEO of Stauffer Communications in Topeka, Kansas, which owned 23 daily newspapers, nine television stations, and four radio stations.

In addition to the three daily newspapers north of Detroit, 21st Century publishes the County Press in Lapeer, the Voice Newspapers in Macomb and St. Clair counties, the Advisor/Source newspapers in Utica, and more than 20 other weekly publications in neighboring counties.

The Heritage group was assembled by automotive industry entrepreneur Heinz C. Prechter through a series of acquisitions in the mid-1980s. Prechter died in July 2001.