Friday, June 1, 2012

Freedom Communications sells East Coast papers

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Even after all the developments last week, it seems the dismantling of Freedom Communications, the parent company of the Gazette, will continue at a relentless pace. The Irvine, Calif.-based company announced today that it's sold its properties in Florida and North Carolina to Halifax Media Group, the company that purchased the New York Times Company Regional Media Group in January.

The properties involved in the transaction include Holmes County Times-Advertiser, Bonifay, FL; Times-News, Burlington, NC; Havelock News, Havelock, NC; The Daily News, Jacksonville, NC; Free Press, Kinston, NC; The Star, Port St. Joe, FL; The Walton Sun, Santa Rosa Beach, FL; Washington County News, Chipley, FL; The Crestview News Bulletin, Crestview, FL; The Destin Log, Destin, FL; Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, FL; The Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, NC; Jones Post, Kinston, NC; Santa Rosa Press Gazette and Santa Rosa Free Press, Milton, FL; Sun Journal and The Shopper, New Bern, NC; The News Herald, Panama City, FL; The Star, Shelby, NC; and The Topsail Advertiser, Surf City, NC.

In a statement, Freedom CEO Mitch Stern continued his previously established track of lauding these papers that have been granted, uh, freedom.

"At a time when the newspaper industry as a whole faces many challenges, local newspapers like these continue to thrive because they play such a critical role in the lives of their communities," Stern says. "It's also a real tribute to the dedication and hard work of our employees that these properties were so attractive to a new owner."

And, of course, the real deal from VP and chief financial officer Mark McEachen: "Providing value for our shareholders was a major goal of this transaction, and others that we've undertaken recently."

As for the fate of our daily, a May 14 report from the Wall Street Journal story says there's been inquiries, but obviously no consummations.

Freedom was in talks last year to sell all of its more than 100 daily and weekly newspapers to Denver Post publisher MediaNews Group Inc. for around $350 million, but the deal got derailed because MediaNews had difficulty obtaining financing. ...

Talks with Anthem Newspaper Holdings LLC to buy Freedom's Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colo., recently broke down, the people said.

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