Brown becomes Ohio Community MediaBack to News

The senior lenders to the former Brown Publishing Co. took control of most of the company’s publishing assets in September at the conclusion of a bankruptcy auction.

The lending group formed a new company – Ohio Community Media, LLC – that now owns the bulk of the former Brown properties, which consist of community newspapers in western Ohio and business journals located in regional markets around the country.

The bankruptcy auction saw some of the Brown newspapers sold to third-party buyers before the lenders stepped in. Murray Cohen bought a daily and neighboring weeklies in Ohio, while a private equity firm backed the acquisition of Dan’s Papers on Long Island.

The lenders, however, claimed the rest after a winning bid submitted by Brown executives failed when financing for the deal fell through.

Ohio Community Media has engaged Dirks, Van Essen & Murray to explore strategic options for the company and its publishing group.

Brown Publishing was a longtime family company that dated to the early part of the 1900s. The company was founded by Clarence J. Brown, who served as a U.S. Representative for Ohio for more than a quarter century until his death in 1965. His son, Clarence Brown, Jr., also served in Congress and ran the publishing company. Brown, Jr.’s son, Roy Brown, was president of the company when it entered into bankruptcy in April 2010.

Privately held Brown had been a relatively small newspaper company until the late 1990s, when it began a concerted effort to grow.

Beginning with the Athens (OH) Messenger in 1997, Brown acquired several more Ohio dailies over the next three years, including the Xenia Gazette, Greenville Daily Advocate, Piqua Daily Call, Sidney Daily News and Troy Daily News, among others.

In 2007, Brown sold the Athens paper, two other dailies and complementary publications in eastern Ohio to American Consolidated Media. It then embarked on an effort to expand geographically through the acquisition of numerous business journals and Dan’s Papers, which serves the Hamptons in New York.

In September 2007 Brown acquired its first publications outside Ohio when it added the Des Moines (IA) Business Record, the Fort Worth (TX) Business Press and Dan’s Papers. Several more were added in the early part of 2008.

The debt incurred from these acquisitions ultimately contributed to bankruptcy filing in 2010.

Today, Ohio Community Media consists of 14 paid daily newspapers, approximately 30 paid weekly newspapers and commercial printing operations in western Ohio. In addition, the company owns 11 business publications in Iowa, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, Illinois, Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona.