Gazette parent company Freedom Communications announced today that it has been acquired by investment group 2100 Trust, a company formed three years ago with the sole intent of investing in newspapers.
Terms of the deal, which include Freedom’s flagship publication The Orange County Register, were not disclosed.
Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom has sold many of its properties, including newspapers in Florida, North Carolina and Texas as well as several radio and TV stations.
Today’s announcement puts an end to rumors and expectations that Denver Post owner MediaNews Group was wrapping up a deal to by The Gazette.
According to a press release, all current Freedom employees at “operating locations” will transition to the new ownership.
Freedom CEO Mitchell Stern put an optimistic spin on the news, saying the transaction ensures that Freedom’s former newspapers will continue to serve their communities while allowing them to meet shareholder expectations.
Last year, 2100 made an unsuccessful bid to buy the Boston Globe from the New York Times Co., and made an offer in January to buy Maine Today Media, which published several daily and weekly newspapers. That deal fell apart after compensation negotiations with the company’s employees were unsuccessful.
2100’s leadership includes CEO Aaron Kushner, who has founded several internet-based companies; Chris Harte, former Minneapolis Star-Tribune publisher; Brendan Burns, a private equity investor and Jack Griffin, a former CEO of Time, Inc.
Prior to being hired by Time, Griffin headed The Meredith Corp., a Des Moines-based company that published Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal.
Longtime newspaperman Harte led the group that acquired the Star-Tribune in 2007 from The McClatchy Company, but plans quickly unraveled and the paper filed for bankruptcy two years later and Harte resigned as publisher.
Burns is a co-founder of AdOne, a internet-based newspaper classified network that was acquired by Media News Group in 1999. He’s an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School and also has headed a private equity firm Stepping Stone Capital Partners.