Year-end 2022Back to News

Deal Activity Year in Review: Small papers being acquired left and right by diverse set of buyer

In 2022, we tracked the sale of more than 32 daily newspapers and 200 nondaily publications. There was not a single headline-grabbing, blockbuster deal – large dailies remained on the sidelines of merger and acquisition activity.

This follows 2021, when half of the daily newspapers sold were accounted for in the sale of Tribune Publishing to Alden Global Capital, and 2020, when most of the 81 dailies sold were captured in two deals: the sale of McClatchy Co. to Chatham Asset Management and BH Media to Lee Enterprises. As for 2019, we all remember the headlines about the Gannett and New Media Investment Group megamerger that was valued at $1.2 billion.

In 2022, the number of transactions didn’t slow, but small and medium-sized dailies and weeklies were the subject of every transaction but one – the sale of the Chicago Sun-Times, which was completed in the first quarter.

Who was buying and selling?
Prior to 2020, there were many years in which two or three large companies were snapping up most of the newspapers that came on the market. BH Media, Adams Publishing Group, and New Media Investment Group (and GateHouse in its previous iteration) all took turns on that list.

This, however, marked the third year with a remarkably diverse buyer pool. In a sample of 65 transactions that closed in 2022, 48 different buyers were represented. Forty of those buyers completed only a single transaction during the year. This group included several independent, local buyers such as El Rito Media in New Mexico; Amy Duncan and her husband Mark Davitt in Iowa; and Kyle and Jordan Troutman in Missouri.

Other single transactions included Boone Newspapers’ acquisition of the daily in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which had been owned by the Gaines family for 140 years; River City Newspapers’ acquisition of a cluster in Arizona that had long been owned by Brehm Communications; and Ogden Newspapers’ acquisition of the KPC Media newspapers through its Fort Wayne Newspapers partnership with Journal Gazette Co.

Of the eight companies in the sample that completed multiple deals, J. Louis Mullen topped the list with seven acquisitions, buying papers in New Jersey, South Dakota, Michigan, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Sellers in those transactions ranged from Minnesota-based Adams Publishing Group to the Schmidt family in South Dakota and the Tubbs family in Iowa.

CherryRoad Media also completed several deals, adding newspapers in Massachusetts, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri, and Utah. Sellers in those deals included the Brehm family, Gannett Co., Inc., Rust Communications, and Sunrise Printing & Publishing.

Paxton Media Group also continued to grow, with three strategic acquisitions that added to its regional clusters. These deals included a group of dailies serving communities in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama from Cleveland and Cookeville Newspapers, as well as a cluster in North Carolina that had been owned by Gannett.

Adding to regional clusters drove other buyers as well. WV News, led by Brian Jarvis, grew its stable in and around West Virginia to more than a dozen papers when it acquired three papers from AIM Media and three from Gannett. In addition, Dan Pulcrano added to his Weeklys newspaper group in California with the acquisition of a weekly in Sonoma County and Bay Area Parent magazine. And Marietta, Georgia-based Times-Journal, Inc. acquired six metro Atlanta newspapers from Southern Community Newspapers, which it was already partnering with for printing and pagination.

Portfolio management was on the minds of several sellers. Gannett continued to strategically pare down its portfolio, completing more than a half dozen deals in several states, and Ogden Newspapers spun off its Grass Valley, California cluster that was acquired as part of its 2021 acquisition of Swift Communications. Adams Publishing Group also divested a property that sat outside its primary footprints when it sold a Michigan weekly to J. Louis Mullen, and Paxton Media Group sold one of the Florida newspapers that was part of its 2021 Landmark acquisition to D-R Media.

Even prolific buyer CherryRoad Media found itself on the sell side, spinning off six properties to local staff at the end of the year.