1st Quarter 2014
Adams group enters newspapers: Family has history in media and other business investments
The Adams group, whose investments range from outdoor advertising to RV retailing, acquired several clusters of eastern and Midwestern community newspapers to mark a re-entry into the industry.
The transaction highlighted a relatively active first quarter in 2014, which also included a first acquisition for New Media Investment Group post-IPO and the sale of a major market alternative weekly.
In total, nearly a dozen daily newspapers changed hands in the January through March period.
Adams Adds Print
The newly formed Adams Publishing Group bought three newspaper clusters in Maryland, Ohio and Minnesota/Wisconsin from American Consolidated Media. The acquisition included eight daily newspapers and a number of non-daily publications.
Located principally on the eastern shore, the Maryland group is anchored by the Easton Star Democrat and Elkton Cecil Whig. A number of county-seat weeklies fill in the turf between and around these two newspapers.
The group was formerly known as Chesapeake Publishing and sold to ACM in 2007 by private owners.
The upper Midwest group serves isolated markets in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, including Bob Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota and other communities along the Mesabi Iron Range. Formerly known as Superior Publishing, the group also was acquired by ACM in 2007.
The Ohio group is centered on the daily Athens Messenger, whose market is dominated by Ohio University. ACM acquired the Ohio newspapers from Brown Publishing in 2007 as well.
Adams Publishing Group is part of a large family operation. Its holdings include Adams Outdoor Advertising, the nation’s largest privately held outdoor company, and Good Sams Enterprises. The family owned a daily newspaper several decades ago.
In making the acquisition, Adams joins a growing list of sophisticated investors, such as Warren Buffett, Warren Stephens, Phil Anschutz and John Henry, who have made significant newspaper purchases in recent years.
ACM continues to own newspapers and shoppers in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
The company formerly known as GateHouse Media was rechristened New Media Investment Group in a successful initial public offering in the first quarter of 2014.
Wasting no time, New Media made its first acquisition under its new name of the Victorville (CA) Daily Press and Barstow (CA) Desert Dispatch. The two dailies came over from Aaron Kushner’s Freedom Communications, which is focused on building around its flagship Orange County Register.
Part of New Media’s strategy is to grow through acquisition. New Media also expects to grow revenue by offering online marketing services to small business owners through its Propel Marketing unit.
Freedom added the Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise in 2013 and is launching new products in the Los Angeles area.
Boone Keeps Growing
After a busy acquisition year in 2013, Boone Newspapers continued to add newspapers with the purchase of the Salisbury (NC) Post from Evening Post Industries and the Bogalusa (LA) Daily News and LaPlace (LA) L’Observateur from Wick Communications.
With the sale of the Salisbury Post, its former owner Evening Post Industries has now pared its newspaper holdings back to its flagship Charleston (SC) Post and Courier and surrounding publications. Evening Post Industries says it is making an effort to diversify its holdings.
The 15,800-circulation Salisbury Post will be Boone’s largest newspaper in North Carolina and one of the largest owned or managed by the company. Boone also owns newspapers in northeastern North Carolina, including the Washington Daily News; and in southwestern North Carolina.
Evening Post had owned the Salisbury Post since 1997.
In separate deals, Boone also purchased the Bogalusa Daily News and weekly LaPlace L’Observateur in Louisiana from Wick Communications. Wick had owned the papers for 71 and 28 years, respectively.
These newspapers are Boone’s first acquisitions in Louisiana, which serve communities adjacent to Picayune and Poplarville, Mississippi, where Boone acquired papers late last year (see map, right).
Meet the New Boss
Tribune Co., owner of the Baltimore Sun, bought the alternative Baltimore City Paper, in a marriage of establishment and not-so-establishment media.
The sale of City Paper was the final divestiture of alternative publications by Scranton, Pennsylvania-based Times-Shamrock Communications. In late 2013, Times-Shamrock sold alternatives in San Antonio, Orlando, Cleveland and Detroit to a newly formed company.
Tribune plans to keep the two Baltimore operations separate. Baltimore Sun publisher Timothy Ryan said, ‘We want the paper to remain a valued alternative, independent voice in Baltimore.”
A Friendly Reminder
In a similar strategic acquisition, Tribune bought a group of free-distribution weekly publications and telephone books serving markets east of Hartford, Connecticut, where Tribune owns the Hartford Courant.
The group, ReminderNews, publishes 15 free weekly publications in eastern and northern Connecticut. Reminder also publishes phone directories , a monthly real estate publication and a weekly auto publication.
ReminderNews has been family-owned since 1949. It was founded by Ken Hovland, Sr. and his wife Carol. It was operated by their sons – Ken, Jr. and Keith – until the sale to Tribune.
Classified Ventures has agreed to sell its Apartments.com business and is continuing to market the successful Cars.com operation. Apartments.com will be sold for $585 million to Washington, D.C.-based Costar Group.
Classified Ventures is owned by Tribune Co., Gannett, McClatchy Co., Graham Holdings (former owners of the Washington Post) and A. H. Belo. Analysts estimate that Cars.com could sell for $2.5 billion to $3.0 billion. Classified Ventures in total generated just over $500 million in revenue in 2013.