1st Quarter 2016
Deal Momentum Continues: Alternative weeklies, community dailies among those sold in Q1
Newspaper transaction activity began the year with a solid number of closings. The first quarter saw the sale of the Freedom Communications’ holdings in Southern California in a bankruptcy auction, along with deals involving two alternative weeklies and a handful of community dailies.
Freedom sold the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise for $49.8 million in a court-approved sale to Digital First Media, owner of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Elsewhere, family ownership transitioned at the daily Warsaw (IN) Times-Union, and new owners took over at the alternative weeklies Pittsburgh City Paper and OC Weekly. Charleston, South Carolina-based Evening Post Industries also expanded its content marketing services.
Total Drama in OC
Digital First landed the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise after Freedom rejected a higher offer from Tribune Publishing that the U.S. Department of Justice objected to on antitrust grounds. Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune in Southern California.
The deal represents an expansion of Digital First’s holdings in California. In addition to the Los Angeles Daily News, Digital First owns the Long Beach Press-Telegram and other publications in the greater Los Angeles area. The company also has a sizable group in the Bay Area and other publications elsewhere in northern California.
Tribune was initially named the top bidder for Freedom’s publishing assets; however, the Justice Department sought a restraining order to block the sale. The company then opted to accept Digital First’s offer.
The Orange County Register was acquired along with other western newspapers in 2012 by a group led by Aaron Kushner. Kushner subsequently sold off all of the other newspapers and added the Riverside newspaper in 2013. Freedom’s lenders forced the company into bankruptcy, which resulted in the auction.
In a separate Orange County transaction, Voice Media Group sold Costa Mesa-based OC Weekly to Duncan McIntosh, owner of boating publications and Editor & Publisher magazine.
The sale was the last in a series of divestitures by Voice Media that included the Village Voice, City Pages of Minneapolis and the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.
McIntosh is publisher of Boating World magazine, Sea magazine and the Log Newspaper. Since 2010, he also has owned the newspaper industry’s primary trade publication.
OC Weekly has a reputation for strong investigative reporting and is known for irreverent coverage of Orange County culture.
All in the Family
The 9,000-circulation Warsaw (IN) Times-Union remained in the hands of the Williams family, which has owned the newspaper since 1854.
Owners of the newspaper agreed to sell it to Chandler Williams and Erin Williams, who live in the community and who assumed full ownership. General Reub Williams founded the predecessor of the Warsaw Daily Times. In 1940, the family acquired the competing Warsaw Union and merged the two papers into the Times-Union.
Evening Post Industries (EPI), owner of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, among other media properties, acquired a provider of media content marketing services to expand its offerings.
The company bought Content That Works, which provides editorial content and custom native advertising to 30 million homes a month across the U.S. and Canada, through more than 1,000 newspaper, television and radio stations. Content That Works products include well-known brands such as JobWeek, Real Estate Weekly, Body & More, WheelDeals and KidScoop.
Content That Works was established in Chicago in 2001 by Paul A. Camp. Camp will remain with the company, which will relocate to Charleston.
Founded in 1896, Evening Post Industries owns network-affiliated broadcast television in 13 markets, two daily newspapers, eight community newspapers and digital communications across all markets. Other EPI business units include marketing services, hospice care, real estate and technology services.
Steel City Expansion
The family owners of the Butler Eagle added to their holdings in western Pennsylvania by acquiring the alternative Pittsburgh City Paper.
The Wise family’s Eagle Media bought the region’s leading alternative from Steel City Media, which plans to focus on its radio stations in Pittsburgh and other markets. The Pittsburgh City Paper is celebrating its 25th year of operation.
Vance Smith, who represents the fifth generation of the Wise family and owners of Eagle Media, will become publisher of the Pittsburgh City Paper. In addition to the daily Butler Eagle, Eagle Media owns the Cranberry Eagle, the Butler Color Press and Harmony Outdoor.
Close to Home
The owner of the Emporia (KS) Gazette acquired two small daily newspapers and an associated weekly in north-central Kansas.
White Corp. bought the Junction City Daily Union and Abilene Reflector-Chronicle from the Montgomery family, which had owned the Junction City newspaper for four generations.
The White Corp. has owned the Emporia Gazette since 1895. The head of the company, Chris Walker, is the grandson of famed muckraker William Allen White.
Partners at the Packet
James B. Kilgore, the scion of another famous newsman, formed a partnership with Broad Street Media to operate his Princeton (NJ) Packet newspaper and related products in northern New Jersey.
Broad Street was formed in 2010 and operates newspapers principally in the greater Philadelphia area, including southern New Jersey. Broad Street CEO Darwin Oordt will oversee day-to-day activities at the Princeton Packet.
Packet Media Group’s publications have paid circulation of approximately 40,000. The company was founded in 1955 by Bernard (Barney) Kilgore, Jim Kilgore’s father, who grew the Wall Street Journal into a national financial newspaper.
The Lake Charles (LA) American Press, owned by the Shearman family, acquired the Southwest Daily News in nearby Sulphur and two other area newspapers from New Media Investment Group.
Acquired in the purchase were the Southwest Daily News; the Vinton News; and the Southwest Review, a shopper that covers areas of Westlake, Moss Bluff and Sulphur.
Tom Shearman III has been publisher of the American Press since 1996. His grandfather, Thomas Shearman Sr., bought the newspaper in 1943 from the heirs of its two founders, Guy Beatty and Frank A. Smith. It has been family owned since then.