4th Quarter 2013
Family groups expand;
New player in alternatives
Family-owned newspaper companies made a number of strategic acquisitions in the 4th quarter of 2013, finding good opportunities as another strong newspaper acquisition year came to a close.
Privately held Forum Communications, Boone Newspapers and Shaw Media added daily newspapers to expand their footprints where they already had significant publishing assets. In addition, a new entrant in the alternative weekly field bought four newspapers in metro markets in a deal closed just before Christmas.
The final transactions of 2013 brought total dollar volume of daily newspaper deals ahead of the prior-year levels, as the newspaper deal market continues to make gains in the post-recession era.
Brainerd to Forum
For a company with significant holdings in the Upper Midwest, it seems only fitting that Fargo, North Dakota-based Forum Communications would add the home of Paul Bunyan.
Near year-end, Forum acquired the Brainerd (MN) Dispatch from Morris Communications. The 10,300-circulation daily joins a stable of newspapers that includes Minnesota operations in Bemidji, Duluth, Red Wing, Willmar and Worthington.
Forum owns a total of 36 newspapers, including the flagship Fargo (ND) Forum. The family-owned company also has television and radio holdings, a commercial printing division, Internet businesses and websites at each of its operations.
Morris had owned the Brainerd newspaper since 1995, when it acquired the property from Stauffer Communications
Although unlikely to provide any synergies in the deal, it is worth noting that the 1996 Coen brothers’ movie Fargo takes place in Brainerd.
New Alt Owner
Newly formed Euclid Media of Twinsburg, Ohio acquired four alternative weekly newspapers from Times-Shamrock, which had announced plans to sell the publications earlier in the year.
The alternatives forming the new publishing platform are the Cleveland Scene, Orlando Weekly, San Antonio Current and Detroit Metro Times. Scranton, Pennsylvania-based Times-Shamrock continues to own community newspapers and radio stations in Pennsylvania and four other states.
Euclid Media is led by Andrew Zelman, who teamed with two of the Times-Shamrock alternative publishers – Michael Wagner of San Antonio, Texas and Chris Keating of Shaker Heights, Ohio – to make the acquisition.
You Can Go Home Again
An affiliate of Boone Newspapers acquired the 5,100-circulation Picayune (MS) Item from Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. in a homecoming for the small-market daily.
Boone, which started as Tuscaloosa Newspapers, bought the then-weekly Picayune Item in 1970, increased its frequency to daily, but then sold the newspaper along with the weekly Poplarville Democrat in 1980. The Poplarville newspaper also came back to Boone in the latest deal.
CNHI bought the newspapers in 1998 as part of a much larger transaction with Donrey Media. Boone owns a number of newspapers in southern Mississippi, including dailies in Natchez, Vicksburg and Brookhaven.
The Picayune and Poplarville newspapers were acquired by a new entity owned by Carpenter Newsmedia LLC. Todd Carpenter, president and chief operating officer of Boone Newspapers, is the principal owner. Boone owns and manages 46 newspapers in the Southeast and Midwest.
In a separate transaction, a Boone affiliate bought the Elizabethton (TN) Star from local owners. It is Boone’s first newspaper in Tennessee.
Joliet to Join Shaw Group
Privately held Shaw Media announced a deal to buy the 27,300-circulation daily Joliet (IL) Herald-News from Wrapports LLC, owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and a suburban Chicago publishing group.
Dixon, Illinois-based Shaw also owns the Crystal Lake Northwest Herald, DeKalb Daily Chronicle and other newspapers west of Chicago in suburban and exurban markets.
Copley Newspapers acquired the Joliet Herald-News 100 years ago and later merged it with a competing newspaper. Copley sold it along with the rest of its Fox Valley Press division to Hollinger International in 2000. Shaw will be just the fourth owner of the Herald-News in the last 100 years.