The owner of the Bucks County Courier Times and its sister papers has sold the company to a national chain.
The deal will see the Levittown-based Bucks County Courier Times, Burlington County Times, Beaver County Time, Doylestown Intelligencer and Ellwood City Ledger along with Calkins Digital go to New York-based GateHouse Media. Calkins also plans to sell The Uniontown Herald-Standard, The Greene County Messenger and a Western Pennsylvania real estate company to Ogden Newspapers.
GateHouse Media, which is owned by investment firm New Media Investment Group, Inc., is buying Calkins Media for $17.5 million. The deal will close June 30.
New Media Investment Group is owned by SoftBank Group Corp. of Japan.
The deal follows the sale of Calkins Media’s southern TV stations earlier this year and rumors of the company shopping property it owns, including a rarely used portion of its Tullytown headquarters property.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the deal includes the printing facilities, including the Falls Township press facility.
The Calkins family has owned the award-winning Bucks County Courier Times for 80 years. Through the years, the family has committed their papers to local news coverage despite recent cutbacks and shrinking circulation.
“This decision was made after extensive deliberation by the Calkins family and the knowledge that our businesses could best thrive in a company with broader resources and reach,” Mark Contreras, Calkins Media CEO, said in a statement posted online. “I am very grateful for the tremendous creativity, passion and dedication of every Calkins colleague and the support of the Calkins family. It has been a great honor to serve with all of them.”
“New Media is honored that the Calkins family has chosen us as the future owners of their newspapers. We are excited to be expanding our footprint in Pennsylvania and look forward to working with their employees to further enhance the strong partnerships they have built over the past 80 years,” said Michael E. Reed, New Media president and CEO. “The Calkins publications have been consistently recognized for their high quality journalism as well as for innovation. Their digital group has been pioneering the use of video and streaming content, which is something we are excited to explore further across our New Media footprint.”
The loss of local control of the Bucks County Courier Times, which moves 23,000 copies on weekdays and 35,000 on Sundays, is in line with trends across the country. Local papers – many facing revenue and circulation drops along with steep legacy costs – are being scooped by large companies, including Gannett, Digital First Media and GateHouse. The national chains often cut costs and local coverage.
Charles C. Smith, a member of the Calkins family and a member of the board of directors, said in a statement that the “sole driving factor” for the sale was economics.
Earlier this year, Calkins Media polled readers and mentioned that “a local news organization” was considering cutting print editions in favor of a local news app. The question asked for the opinion of readers.
GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis told the Bucks County Courier Times that he sampled some of the newspaper’s recent coverage and was impressed.
At a time when a free press covering local issues is most important, GateHouse has been tied to a controversial newspaper deal in Las Vegas and recently signaled a cut in jobs months after offering buyouts.
A former Philadelphia-area newspaper manager told LevittownNow.com late last year that Calkins Media has some of the most attractive newspapers and related properties in the Mid-Atlantic. He noted that the papers had popular brands and benefited from economies of scale while still being locally owned.
The Bucks County Courier Times was formed after the Calkins-owned Bristol Courier merged with the Levittown Times in the mid-20th Century.
GateHouse Media owns 130 daily newspapers and 600 community publications.