Star-Bulletin owner Black buys Akron Beacon Journal
Black Press Ltd. is acquiring the sole daily newspaper in the Ohio city for $165 million
Black Press Ltd., the owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, announced yesterday that it will buy the Akron Beacon Journal, a former Knight-Ridder newspaper, from the McClatchy Co. for $165 million.
The Beacon Journal, which is the only daily newspaper in Akron, Ohio, and is distributed throughout northeast Ohio, will become Black Press's largest holding. The Star-Bulletin was formerly Black's largest newspaper and is now second-largest.
The Akron paper, which has a weekday circulation of 135,000 and a Sunday circulation of 175,000, employs about 600 people. By comparison, the Honolulu Advertiser, owned by Gannett Co. Inc., has a circulation of 140,327 daily and 158,699 Sunday. The Star-Bulletin has a circulation of 65,000.
The Beacon Journal will become the flagship paper in Black's chain, which owns and operates 115 newspapers in western Canada, Washington state and Hawaii. Most of Black's newspapers are published one to three times per week.
The acquisition, which is expected to close this summer, is a good fit for Black Press, said David Black, chief executive officer of Black Press, a company that is 80 percent owned by the David Black family and 20 percent owned by the Torstar Corp.
"Under the direction of the Knight family, the Akron Beacon Journal has been a good community newspaper for a long time. We believe in the same focus on local journalism of high quality," Black said.
Black said he remains committed to the Star Bulletin, which he has owned for the past five years.
"I'm a staunch supporter of the Star-Bulletin. I have been and I will be," Black said. "The fact that I've bought another large U.S. paper demonstrates to people that we have the wherewithal to do that."
Having two dailies in the United States could enhance Black Press' ability to meet the needs of its U.S. employees and readers, he said.
"The fact that we have another good-size daily in the United States might help us, because it enables personnel to move back and forth between Hawaii and the Midwest," Black said.
Black Press was able to acquire the Akron Beacon Journal as a result of the Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy's divestiture plans. McClatchy, which publishes 28 newspapers including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Sacramento Bee, agreed in March to acquire Knight Ridder Inc., one of the top newspaper chains in the United States.
McClatchy said it was buying Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion plus the assumption of about $2 billion in debt, though it plans to keep only 20 of Knight Ridder's 32 newspapers, selling the other 12. Most didn't fit McClatchy's criteria of being located in growing markets.
"Our aim throughout the divestiture process was to find the right buyers for the right newspapers," said Gary Pruitt, chief executive officer of McClatchy. "We believe that Black Press Ltd. and the Akron Beacon Journal are a great fit, and we look forward to seeing this relationship develop in the future."
In a memo to Beacon Journal employees, Black promised no layoffs and to recognize the paper's current labor unions, including the Newspaper Guild-CWA.
In Akron yesterday, dozens of Beacon Journal staffers packed the newspaper's library as publisher James Crutchfield broke the news. Crutchfield said Black's "reputation is for figuring out how things work and making them better. He appreciates the value of journalism."
The Akron deal with Black was one of five reached yesterday for the six remaining Knight Ridder newspapers McClatchy plans to divest. It put the total sale price for the five newspapers, including the Beacon Journal, at about $450 million.
The other newspapers sold yesterday are the Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota; Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota; the American News in Aberdeen, S.D., and the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel in Indiana. The buyer of the Fort Wayne paper, Ogden Newspapers, also owns the Maui News.
That leaves the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., remaining to be sold. McClatchy has already announced the sale of six other larger newspapers owned by Knight Ridder Inc., including the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.