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Freedom Communications to be acquired
Sale includes the Yuma Sun
UPDATED - 4:10 p.m. The owner of the Yuma Sun announced Monday that the paper has been bought by 2100 Trust LLC, a privately-held company led by a Massachusetts investor who previously planned to buy The Boston Globe.
The Yuma Sun's parent company, Freedom Communications Holdings Inc., did not disclose terms of the deal, which also includes the sale of the six other remaining Freedom dailies and related properties, including the Orange County Register. The deal, which was described as a merger with a subsidiary of 2100 Trust, is expected to close in about 30 days.
“We couldn't be more pleased with the opportunity to lead the hard-working and talented employees of Freedom Communications in serving these communities,” said Aaron Kushner, 2100 Trust's chief executive officer in a statement released by the company. “We believe that newspapers are essential to the fabric of our lives and are excited to own and grow these unique institutions.”
The deal caps a two-year effort by Freedom to sell off the company's properties after exiting bankruptcy in April 2010. At that time, a group of investors and banks took over the company from the founding Hoiles family, which had owned the Register for 75 years.
The breakup of Freedom began last November when Freedom announced the sale of its eight television stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $385 million.
That sale was followed by the announcement in May and early June of three separate deals for Freedom's Midwest, Texas and Florida/North Carolina newspapers. Earlier in the year, Freedom sold two smaller papers – The Tribune in Seymour, Ind., and the News Journal in Clovis, N.M. Terms of the newspaper deals were not disclosed.
“While providing the value that our shareholders have sought, this transaction also ensures Freedom's communities that our newspapers serve will continue to receive the outstanding service that has been our hallmark,” said Mitch Stern, Freedom chief executive. “Our employees will be able to continue the community journalism at which they so excel.”
The purchase of the Register and other Freedom properties will be 2100 Trust's first successful media deal after two previous attempts failed.
Kushner founded 2100 Trust in 2009 after he left his position as chief executive of Massachusetts-based Marian Heath Greeting Cards. Kushner, who once owned an online company to help people with moving, then organized a group of former media executives and investors to bid on the Globe.
Last year, the firm reportedly planned to offer more than $200 million to buy the Globe and its related properties. Among the advisers helping Kushner were Ben Bradlee Jr., a former Globe executive, and Benjamin and Stephen Taylor, whose family previously owned the paper.
The firm's plan, however, was short-circuited by the Globe's owner, The New York Times Co., whose then chief executive, Janet Robinson, said the paper was not for sale.
Earlier this year, 2100 Trust appeared poised to buy a controlling interest in MaineToday Media, owner of the Portland Press Herald and several other papers. Among those working with 2100 Trust was Chris Harte, former president of the Press Herald. Harte previously was publisher of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He left after the paper's bankruptcy in 2009.
The firm's Maine bid, however, got derailed over differences with management and union objections to concessions Kushner wanted in work hours, benefits and job protections. The Maine company's board ultimately declined the 2100 Trust offer and accepted a cash infusion of $3 million to $4 million by Maine financier Donald Sussman and his Maine Values, LLC.