Halifax Media Holdings LLC completed a $143 million deal Friday to buy The Press Democrat and 15 other regional newspapers from the New York Times Co.
The acquisition also includes the North Bay Business Journal in Santa Rosa and the Petaluma Argus-Courier. The publications will continue to focus on local news and will be controlled by their local publishers, Halifax Media chief executive officer Michael Redding told reporters in a conference call Friday.
"Commitment to local news is everything," he said.
Founded in 2010, Halifax Media is based in Daytona Beach, Fla. It is backed by Stephens Capital Partners, an investment firm in Little Rock, Ark., controlled by billionaire Warren Stephens; Redding Investments; and JAARSSS Media LLC, of Miramar Beach, Fla., a firm led by Rupert E. Phillips.
The company was created to buy The Daytona Beach News-Journal, where Redding serves as publisher.
"We believe in the future of newspapers," Redding said in a video presentation shown to Press Democrat employees on Friday. "We're in the business of producing quality newspapers and quality products."
Halifax Media approached the New York Times Co. last year to discuss purchasing one of its regional newspapers, the neighboring Gainesville Sun, Redding said. The scope of the deal expanded during negotiations to include the entire Regional Media Group, he said.
"What started off with a single unit turned into a sizable deal," Redding said.
The company's strategy is to invest long-term capital in quality companies positioned in strong markets that are closely connected to the community, he said.
Asked whether he intended to keep all the papers in the group, Redding said, "We are long-term investors ... We don't anticipate anything more than growing."
Press Democrat Publisher Bruce Kyse called the sale to Halifax Media a positive move for the newspaper.
"They believe in newspapers," he said. "They believe in the press. They believe in strong community journalism."
Redding said that 90 percent of the Media Group's employees would see very little change in their jobs.
Kyse declined to say whether anyone at The Press Democrat had lost their jobs. All newsroom employees were offered jobs by Halifax Media.
Redding said he would visit each of the communities served by the Halifax Media newspapers over the next two weeks.
"We are excited about the communities, excited about the products, and really think those products are positioned well for the future," he said.
The New York Times had owned The Press Democrat since 1985, when it purchased the newspaper from the Finley family of Santa Rosa.
In addition to the three Sonoma County publications, Halifax Media acquired 13 newspapers and affiliated websites, primarily in the southeast United States: the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla.; The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla.; Star-News in Wilmington, N.C.; Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, S.C.; Star-Banner in Ocala, Fla.; The Gainesville Sun in Gainesville, Fla.; The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; The Gadsden Times in Gadsden, Ala.; The Courier in Houma, La.; Times-News in Hendersonville, N.C.; Daily Comet in Thibodaux, La.; The Dispatch in Lexington, N.C.; and News Chief in Winter Haven, Fla.
In total, the newspapers have a Monday-to-Friday circulation of more than 433,000 and nearly 1,800 full-time employees.