Journal Communications Files for IPOBack to News

Journal Communications Inc., owner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other media businesses, has announced plans for an initial public offering of stock that would give the company greater flexibility to make acquisitions and grow its operations.

Under the plan, the employee owners of the company and the heirs of Harry J. Grant would retain voting control, much like some other publicly traded newspaper companies in which family members still call the shots.

Journal Communications is the country’s oldest employee-owned company, with more than $800 million in revenue last year and more than 6,000 employees. Assuming the IPO goes to market, Journal Communications would rank 11th among the nation’s publicly traded companies with significant newspaper holdings, just behind Media General.

Publishing, which includes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Add Inc., a group of community newspapers and shoppers around the country, is the largest segment of the company in terms of revenue.

A new production facility in Milwaukee opened early this year, with total cost of $112 million.

The company also owns six television stations and 36 radio stations in 11 states; Norlight Telecommunications, which provides carrier and commercial services to mid- and smaller-size cities in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere; and a commercial printing business.

In announcing the plan to employees in May, Chairman and CEO Steve Smith said the new capital structure, in addition to providing money for acquisitions, would “allow us to compete in the marketplace with bigger and better capitalized competitors, help in our quest to grow the company’s businesses and capitalize on new business opportunities, and enhance our ability to achieve our strategic vision.” The IPO also would provide liquidity for employee shareholders.

The company began with the acquisition of the Milwaukee Daily Journal in 1882, and it was an early pioneer in radio in the 1920s. In 1962 the company purchased the competing Milwaukee Sentinel, which was operated separately until the two newspapers were merged in 1995.

The company acquired the majority of the stock of Add Inc. in 1981. Today, this subsidiary publishes 39 shoppers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Louisiana, Vermont and Massachusetts, and 47 community newspapers in Wisconsin, Connecticut and Florida.