08-01-20 | Printable Version

August 2020 Report

Small Deals Close as Pandemic Continues
McClatchy bankruptcy process also moves along

Deal activity slowed during the second quarter as the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

However, several small newspapers did change hands as independent and group owners with strong balance sheets built their companies through strategic add-ons.

Some of these transactions included the transfer or sale of publications that had ceased publishing in the wake of COVID-19, including a trio of newspapers owned by the parent company of the Los Angeles Times.

McClatchy Co., which filed for Chapter 11 protection in February citing onerous pension and debt obligations, continued to dominate the industry headlines as its bankruptcy sale proceeded.

As we write this, it appears Chatham Asset Management, the company’s largest secured lender and winner of the bankruptcy court auction, will be taking over the storied newspaper chain.

The sale is scheduled to be approved by the court in August and closed in September.

Paxton Adds in Indiana
Paxton Media Group continued to strategically expand with the addition of the Jasper (IN) Herald. Earlier in 2020, PMG acquired the Madison (IN) Courier.

The award-winning Herald, which has combined print and digital circulation of 7,600 Monday through Saturday, is the most widely read daily newspaper in Indiana’s Dubois County. It had been owned by the Rumbach family since 1919.

“We are excited to add the Jasper Herald to our portfolio of properties in Southern Indiana which include the Vincennes Sun Commercial and the Princeton Daily Clarion,” said Paxton Media Group CEO Jamie Paxton.

“This business combination will allow us to share resources and provide the financial security needed to assure The Herald will continue to serve its community long into the future. We appreciate the Rumbach family choosing Paxton Media Group to be stewards of this vital community asset.”

O’Rourke Expands Holdings
Veteran newspaper publisher Jim O’Rourke continued to grow his holdings with three acquisitions. In May it was announced that O’Rourke Media Group had acquired the Cannon Falls Beacon and the Cannon Shopper in Minnesota. The Beacon was founded in 1876 by John Leonard and purchased in 1880 by Silas S. Lewis, remaining in the Lewis-Dalton family for 140 years.

In addition, Wisconsin Media Group, an affiliate of O’Rourke Media Group, acquired the Sheboygan (WI) Sun, complementing the company’s existing holdings in the state. Mike Walton Jr. started the Sheboygan Sun in 1999 with his father and business partner, Mike Walton Sr.

Wisconsin Media Group’s markets now includes Kiel, New Holstein, Chilton, Sheboygan, Plymouth, Howard’s Grove, Ripon and Green Lake.

In his third recent deal, O’Rourke entered an entirely new market with the acquisition of the CITYSunTimes in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We’re looking forward to entering the Phoenix market,” said Jim O’Rourke in a statement. “The CITYSunTimes content and publishing frequency is unique, they have a great team in place, and the business is greatly positioned for explosive digital audience and marketing growth.”

The monthly CITYSunTimes is delivered to homes and business in Scottsdale, North Phoenix, Carefree, Cave Creek, Black Canyon City, New River, Anthem and Fountain Hills. It was founded in 2002 by Hope Ozer and purchased in 2013 by Lorrie Pomeroy.

Indiana Newspaper Reopens Under New Owner
The Daily Clintonian in Clinton, Indiana, which ceased publication briefly in April, was acquired by Don L. Hurd, president of Hoosier Media Group, Hometown Media and Heartland Media Group.

The Clintonian was established in 1912 and had been owned by the Carey family since 1936.
Similar to Jim O’Rourke, Hurd is a veteran publisher now growing a group of his own. The Clintonian marks the eleventh newspaper in Indiana he has acquired.

Following the closing of the transaction, Hurd was able to quickly re-launch the newspaper using templates and designs from his other newspapers. These other properties include The Benton Review, The News & Review (Fowler), Town & Country Shopping Guide, Hoosier Sports Media, The Paper of Wabash County and the North Manchester News-Journal.

California Newspapers Find New Home
Three California newspapers that briefly ceased publication in April when they were closed by the Los Angeles Times have found new ownership.

Charlie Plowman, owner of La Cañada Flintridge-based Outlook Newspapers, acquired the assets of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun from the Los Angeles Times’ parent company. The three titles join Outlook Newspapers’ La Cañada Outlook, Pasadena Outlook, San Marino Tribune and the South Pasadena Review.

Plowman has published the La Cañada Outlook since 1998. He acquired the assets of the 97-year-old San Marino Tribune and South Pasadena Review from Andrew and Carie Salter in January of this year.

“We are thrilled to have acquired three iconic newspapers with deep roots and historic legacies in their respective communities,” Plowman said in a statement announcing the deal. “I heard the outpouring from local residents, as to how much they love these publications, and want to support them.”

The Burbank Leader was founded as the Burbank Daily Review in 1908. The Glendale News-Press dates back to 1905 and The La Cañada Valley Sun began publishing in 1946. The community papers had been inserted into The Los Angeles Times and also distributed free at businesses and in newspaper racks.

Plowman has now merged the The La Cañada Valley Sun with his La Cañada Outlook publication.

189-year-old Ohio Newspaper Sold
Schloss Media has sold the Free Press Standard in Carrollton, Ohio to the AloNovus Corp. of Millersburg, Ohio.

At 189 years old, the Free Press Standard is one of the oldest newspapers in the Midwest and the oldest continuously operating business in Carroll County.

AloNovus publishes weekly and monthly papers in 11 Ohio counties with total distribution of nearly 400,000. The company was founded by Abe and Fran Mast in the early 1970s and is now owned and operated by their sons.

Nebraska Weekly Changes Hands
Pitzer Digital, a four-year-old media company owned by Carrie and Wade Pitzer of Neligh, Nebraska, has taken over ownership of the 140-year old Stanton (NE) Register. The paper had been owned by Dani Hadcock since 2016.

Pitzer Digital also owns two other newspapers: the Antelope County News, which includes the Neligh News & Leader, Orchard News and Clearwater Record-Ewing News; and the Knox County News, which includes the Bloomfield Monitor and Creighton News.

The Antelope County News, was named the top weekly newspaper of 2018 by the Nebraska Press Association.