Monday, June 11, 2012

Freedom Comm. completes divestment of properties with the sale of its flagship, the Orange County Register

In the very early eighties I was a young pup working for Hearst Newspapers in Los Angeles when word came down that our newspaper, the Herald Examiner, was no long the number two paper in the southland, we'd been passed by the Orange County Register. It was a sign of the growth of the suburbs and the further decline of a once dominant newspaper. A few years later Hearst closed down the Herald Examiner and the Register we on to live happily ever after.

Well, not quite.

Today, Freedom Communications, which has exited bankruptcy just last year, announced that it has completed the sale of its newspaper properties, ending a divestiture process that started in November with the sale of its television stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group.

The flagship, the Orange County Register has been sold to 2100 Trust LLC, a company led by Aaron Kushner which had attempted to buy the Boston Globe.

Last month Freedom announced that it has sold its four midwest newspapers – The Telegraph in Alton, Ill., The Journal-Courier in Jacksonville, Ill., The Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia, Mo., and The Lima News in Ohio – to the Versa Capital Management LLC. Arond the same time the media company sold its Texas papers – The Brownsville Herald, El Nuevo Heraldo, The Harlingen Valley Morning Star, The Monitor in McAllen, The Odessa American and The Mid Valley Town Crier in Weslaco – to AIM Media Texas LLC, a newly formed company. Finally, Freedom sold off its papers in the southeast, papers located in Florida and North Carolina, to Halifax Media Group, a PE backed media company that has been pursuing an aggressive acquisition strategy.

The sale leaves the newspaper scene in Southern California completely transformed from just a couple decades ago. In addition to the exit by Hearst, the L.A. Times is now owned by the Tribune Company (when it was formerly owned by Times-Mirror), the Daily News, which has been bought and sold several times, forms the flagship for the MediaNews Group division Los Angeles Newspaper Group, and now the sale of Freedom Communication's property in Orange County. The transformation even goes further: Knight-Ridder used to own the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Copley owned papers in Torrance and Santa Monica (The Outlook was shuttered in 1998) and papers in the San Gabriel Valley have all changed hands.