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It's official: Press Democrat sold to local group

Twenty-seven years after The Press Democrat was sold to the New York Times, it returned to local ownership Thursday as a prominent group of power brokers and wealthy investors closed a deal they said will protect the paper's legacy of quality local journalism.

The purchase of The Press Democrat, Petaluma Argus-Courier and the North Bay Business Journal from Florida-based Halifax Media was completed shortly before noon. The buyer, Sonoma Media Investments, is a group formed in 2011 to buy the twice-weekly Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper and Sonoma Magazine.

Publisher Bruce Kyse choked up when he announced the deal a short time later to employees, who erupted in applause. He called the Press Democrat and Argus-Courier "long-term institutions that help define the history of Sonoma County," and said he was gratified to see them protected.

Press Democrat Media Group Purchase

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"This is kind of an historic moment," Kyse said. "This is a big deal."

News of the impending sale and disclosure of the key players were announced last week. They include lobbyist and Sonoma-based developer Darius Anderson; Bill Hooper, who heads Anderson's development firm, Kenwood Investments, and will be chief operating officer; former North Coast congressman Doug Bosco of Santa Rosa, who will becomes the paper's general counsel; and Steve Falk, a former San Francisco Chronicle publisher who is chief executive officer of the investment group.

It also was revealed that six local investors proved crucial in making the deal a reality. Among them are some of the region's most influential names, including Jeannie Schulz, wife of the late Charles M. Schulz, whose Peanuts comic strip empire was built on newspapers, and Norma Person, whose late husband Evert Person sold The Press Democrat to the New York Times in 1985.

"All of them have their roots, their hearts and their soul in Sonoma and they are all committed to this endeavor," Anderson said.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Halifax Media purchased the three papers in January from the New York Times Co. along with 13 other newspapers, most of them in the Southeast, for a total of $143 million.

It has long been speculated that Halifax would spin off the three California papers because they were geographically isolated from the rest of the group.

"I don't think they were bad people," Anderson said of Halifax. "I think they weren't focused on the West Coast."


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