Thursday, June 15, 2017

Civitas sells 17 dailies, 15 weeklies to AIM Media; 5 dailies, 17 weeklies in Carolinas to Champions

Lima News graphic omits the Point Pleasant Register, across the
Ohio River from Gallipolis, Ohio. Click on map for larger version.
Civitas Media, one of the larger owners of rural U.S. newspapers, getting smaller. It is selling its 16 Ohio dailies and one in West Virginia to "a Dallas firm that has amassed a portfolio of smaller newspapers in Texas, Indiana, and now Ohio," The Toledo Blade reports. Today, Civitas announced that it had sold five dailies and 17 weeklies in North and South Carolina to Champion Media LLC, and there is talk in the industry that more sales are on the way.

AIM Media Midwest LLC, an entity formed by Jeremy Halbreich, chairman and CEO of AIM Media Management, to acquire the Ohio newspapers, said it does not expect any sudden changes or job loss by affected employees at its new acquisitions. Terms of the deal, which closed Tuesday, were not released."

The largest of the Ohio papers began its story, "A new era of ownership began Tuesday for The Lima News with a commitment to local decision-making and a promise of no layoffs." The paper has a long history of chain ownership, starting with its sale to Freedom Newspapers (later Freedom Communications, now defunct) in 1956. It was among papers Freedom sold to Civitas in 2012. The News ran a page giving its history, readership data, independent editorial policy, press start time and the fact that its pages are created "at a design hub in southwestern Ohio," a common practice for chains but not one widely reported to readers.

The Ohio dailies are in Lima, Delaware, Fairborn, Gallipolis, Greenville, Hillsboro, London, Piqua, Pomeroy, Portsmouth, Sidney, Troy, Urbana, Washington Court House, Wilmington, and Xenia. The Hillsboro Times-Gazette is the paper whose editor and publisher drew national attention for endorsing Donald Trump and recently did a follow-up column for The Washington Post. The sale also includes West Virginia's Point Pleasant Register, 15 weeklies and several specialty publications, a news release said.

Halbreich, a Cleveland native, is the former chairman of Sun-Times Media in Chicago, former president of The Dallas Morning News and founder of American Consolidated Media, which owned 40 papers in Texas and Oklahoma before selling in 2007. Civitas, based in Davidson, N.C., is owned by Versa Capital Management, a private-equity investment firm in Philadelphia.

In the Carolinas, the dailies being sold to Champion are the Lumberton Robesonian, the Mount Airy News, the Rockingham Daily Journal, the Clinton Sampson Independent and the Laurinburg Exchange. The weeklies include the Elkin Tribune, the Yadkin Ripple, the Pilot Mountain News, the Carroll News, the Newberry Observer and the Pickens Sentinel.

Champion is a new company formed by Scott and Corey Champion of Mooresville, N.C. It has six dailies and 21 weeklies in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Minnesota and Virginia, a news release said. It said Scott Champion "has operated both small and large newspaper companies including American Publishing, Liberty Group Publishing, GateHouse Media and OCM. Scott’s current portfolio includes MCM Media, MCM Ohio and now Champion Media."

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