October – December 2021Back to News
Ogden Acquires Swift Communications; CherryRoad Media Continues to Buy
Number of local owners also continues to grow
Deal activity remained brisk at the end of 2021, with more than 50 publications changing hands since October.
Buyers included several new local owners, including publishers taking the reins at papers in Kentucky and Texas.
Ogden completes large expansion
In one of the largest deals of the quarter, Ogden Newspapers purchased Swift Communications.
Swift Communications publishes six daily newspapers and numerous weekly newspapers, magazines and other media in a dozen markets in Colorado, Utah, and California, along with a number of national niche and agricultural magazine products.
Its markets include several mountain resort towns, including Aspen, Vail, Steamboat Springs, and Summit County, Colorado; as well as Park City, Utah and Lake Tahoe, California.
Swift also operates two press facilities in Carson City, Nevada and Gypsum, Colorado, both of which were included in the sale.
Ogden Newspapers is a fifth generation family-owned and operated newspaper company, founded in 1890 by H.C. Ogden. With the acquisition, Ogden will publish 54 daily newspapers and a number of weekly newspapers and magazines in 18 states. Ogden will keep operating the existing Swift publications under the name Swift Communications.
CherryRoad adds a dozen
Newcomer CherryRoad Media continued its rapid growth, acquiring seven titles in Minnesota and five in Colorado.
This follows several other acquisitions in 2021, including the addition of 20 newspapers spread across Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri in October, four titles in Arkansas, one in Alabama, and a startup in International Falls, Minnesota.
CherryRoad’s first acquisition, the weekly Cook County (MN) News-Herald, was completed just over a year ago.
The seven weekly Minnesota newspapers acquired included the Granite Falls Advocate-Tribune, Montevideo American News, Redwood Falls Gazette, Crookston Times, Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch, St. James Plaindealer, and Cottonwood Tri-County News. All had been owned by Gannett Co., Inc.
The five Colorado newspapers were added in two transactions. CherryRoad acquired the daily Trinidad (CO) Chronicle-News from local owners, and the nearby daily La Junta (CO) Tribune-Democrat and weekly Fowler Tribune, Bent County Democrat, and Ag Journal from Gannett.
CherryRoad Media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CherryRoad Technologies, a Parsippany, New Jersey-based technology company that provides complex technical solutions and system integration services to large enterprise customers, particularly state and local government entities.
Chionsini family sells to publisher
Granite Publications, a collection of ten nondaily newspapers and a printing operation in south Texas, was sold to Daniel Philhower, the company’s publisher for the past five years.
Granite Publications was owned by Macy Chionsini, the widow of the late Jim Chionsini. Jim Chionsini began his career in newspaper ownership in 1978, acquiring numerous Texas newspapers throughout the years. Macy said it was Jim’s hope that one day the company would be sold to Daniel Philhower.
“It’s an honor to carry on the task of local journalism in these communities,” said Daniel Philhower. “Newspapers are key to the health and vitality of a local community, and I take the responsibility of carrying on what Jim has established in these communities very seriously. Community newspapers are still going strong, and we are honored to be part of the history in each of our communities."
Houston alt sold
Voice Media Group (VMG) sold HoustonPress.com to an undisclosed buyer with plans to continue operating the online newspaper for years to come.
Houston Press, founded in 1989 as a weekly print publication, has been digital only since 2017.
VMG, through its digital arm V Digital Services (VDS), will continue to service and support its digital agency customers in Houston. VDS operates in more than 300 American cities, offering cutting-edge services in local and organic SEO, paid media, social media management, website development and both programmatic and pay-per-click advertising.
Following the sale of the Press, VMG will continue to operate the iconic local publications Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, the Dallas Observer and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
The company previously sold the Village Voice in New York City, LA Weekly, OC Weekly, Minneapolis City Pages, and the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.
Kentucky publisher takes ownership
Ohio-based Delphos Herald, Inc. sold the weekly Falmouth (KY) Outlook to its publisher, Neil Belcher, and his wife, Marilyn. Neil had been the publisher of the Falmouth Outlook since 2014. Delphos had owned the paper since 1985.
When Delphos Herald, Inc., owned by the Cohen family, decided to explore a sale of this newspaper they knew they wanted to find a local owner.
“Community journalism is at the heart of our organization and Neil and his staff have dedicated themselves to telling the stories of Pendleton County in compelling ways that win loyal subscribers and win awards at the state level year after year,” said Delphos Herald, Inc. Acting President Roberta Cohen.
Neil and Marilyn, active members in the Pendleton County community, jumped on the opportunity to make the paper their own.
“Community journalism is so important to a small community such as ours,” said Neil Belcher. “Hopefully, our independent local ownership will allow us to be nimble enough to adapt to whatever challenges we encounter. With 40 years of newspaper experience to draw from, I feel my entire career has prepared me for this moment.”
Street Media buys in Florida
Street Media LLC , the parent company of the Village Voice, LA Weekly, Irvine Weekly and Bay Area Marina Times, acquired The Laker/Lutz News in Florida.
The newspaper was recognized in July by the Florida Press Association as its 2021 Top Weekly Newspaper in its largest circulation division.
Brian Calle, Street Media’s publisher and chief executive officer, said he was attracted to the newspaper and its website because of its quality community journalism and its tremendous potential to expand services.
Three titles sold to Mullen brothers
Brothers Jesse and Lloyd Mullen acquired The Grant Tribune-Sentinel, The Imperial Republican, and The Holyoke Enterprise from Johnson Publications.
The group is located in northeast Colorado and southwest Nebraska and the newspapers publish weekly. Office buildings for the three publications were also included in the purchase.
Lloyd, Jesse, and their brother Louie (who separately owns a group of newspapers) grew up in the newspaper business.
“Growing up in a newspaper family in eastern Wyoming gave us a great love for small town journalism,” Jesse said in an article in the Grant Tribune-Sentinel. “Lloyd and I are excited to protect and grow these newspapers for decades to come.”
Jesse and his wife, Sasha, own and operate four newspapers in Montana and Idaho, as well as the Browsing Bison bookstore group in southwest Montana.
Iowa company acquires five
New Century Press (NCP) acquired Star Publishing, which publishes five weekly newspapers and a shopper in southwestern South Dakota, from Allyson Hill.
Hill, who had owned the group for 17 years, is staying on as the managing editor for the five weeklies and the lead salesperson for the shopper.
NCP owns and operates two newspapers and a monthly women’s magazine in Minnesota, three newspapers and a shopper in Iowa, and two newspapers in North Dakota. The company also partners in three common supplements in Minnesota and Iowa.
Alden paper gets local owner
Public broadcasting company VPM Media acquired Style Weekly, an alternative weekly newspaper in Richmond, Virginia, from Alden Global Capital in November. The hedge fund had shut down the print and online publication in September.
VPM owns public television stations VPM PBS and VPM Plus in Richmond, a television station in Charlottesville, and a station in Harrisonburg. It also operates NPR radio station VPM News (88.9 FM) and VPM Music (107.3 FM, 93.1 FM and 88.9-HD2) in Richmond, as well as radio stations in the Northern Neck and Southside Virginia.
“This acquisition not only represents a strategic opportunity for VPM, but it is also a chance for nonprofit media to innovate and experiment with new business models that may define the future of local journalism,” said Jayme Swain, president and CEO of VPM and the Virginia Foundation for Public Media.
Texas weekly changes hands
The Hays (TX) Free Press was acquired by Something More Newspapers, owned and operated by Tania French and her two daughters Ashley Kontnier and Schelly Bartels, who have a strong newspaper background and established ties to Hays County.
French acquired the Port Lavaca (TX) Wave earlier this year, having worked there for 18 years, 11 of them as a publisher. She launched Something More Media in 2018 with Kontnier and Bartels.
Both Kontnier and Bartels grew up in the newspaper business and have backgrounds in various aspects of newspaper operations; Bartels also operated a printing press for a few years.
Kontnier has been a Hays County resident for 10 years, living above the Hays Free Press while attending Texas State University.
Osteens add one
Jack and Kyle Osteen acquired the Lexington County (SC) Chronicle from Jerry and MacLeod Bellune.
Lexington County sits one hour west of Sumter, where members of the Osteen family have owned the daily Sumter (SC) Item since its founding in 1894.
154-year-old newspaper in Alabama sold
The Southern Star in Ozark, Alabama, believed to be the state’s oldest family-owned newspaper, was sold to Maine-based newspaper operator Pierre Little.
The Southern Star had been in the Adams family since its founding in 1867.
Pierre Little’s other titles include the Machias Valley News Observer and The Calais Advertiser, which operate in the nation’s easternmost county – Washington County, Maine.
Two weekly Gannett-owned Florida papers – The Santa Rosa Press Gazette in Milton and the Crestview News Bulletin in Crestview – were acquired by Navarre Press Publisher Sandi Kemp and her business partner, Todd Neves.
The Enterprise Journal in St. Ansgar, Iowa purchased the Monitor Recorder in neighboring Riceville and will merge the two newspapers into one county-wide weekly newspaper.
Co-founders Dennis Forney and Trish Vernon sold the Cape Gazette, a newspaper covering Delaware’s Cape Region, to co-publisher Chris Rausch. Rausch, a Delaware native, has been with the company since February 2003.
The Petersburg (AK) Pilot was sold by Ron and Anne Loesch to Orin Pierson. Pierson first worked at the Pilot in 2006 in page layout and pre-press, and returned in 2021 as the general manager.