Local group buys Press Democrat
Sonoma Media Investments, LLC, owner of The Sonoma Index-Tribune and SONOMA magazine, announced Thursday it has agreed to purchase The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the Petaluma Argus-Courier and the North Bay Business Journal from Halifax Media Group. The transaction terms were not disclosed, but the sale is expected to close early this month.
Sonoma Media Investments (SMI) was formed by Sonoma investor, lobbyist and philanthropist Darius Anderson, who purchased the Index-Tribune and SONOMA magazine in April. He then engineered an investment group of local business and community leaders to preserve local ownership of the Press Democrat and its satellite publications.
“The Press Democrat, the Argus-Courier and the Business Journal are strong and historic local media brands, and we believe the community will benefit from local ownership,” said Steve Falk, CEO and spokesman for Sonoma Media Investments.
“This is a great story about communities supporting their newspapers,” Falk added. “We’re forming a local media company with the intention of owning and running these newspapers for years to come.”
The Sonoma Index-Tribune and SONOMA magazine, which will be integrated into the new media group, will remain locally managed by existing staff in Sonoma, including editor and publisher David Bolling.
The principal partners of the media group are Anderson; former Congressman Douglas Bosco, of Santa Rosa; Bill Hooper, of Danville, who is president of Kenwood Investments, an Anderson development company based in Sonoma; and Falk, former publisher and president of the San Francisco Chronicle. Falk has most recently served as president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
“We view local ownership as a means to ensure professional independence for the news and editorial staffs,” Falk said. “We know that a newspaper’s success is built on its journalistic reputation and integrity. We’re not going to do anything that would damage that. These publications have a long reputation of quality journalism and a dedicated staff of employees. We will continue to serve the local community, provide good jobs for hundreds of Sonoma residents and expand the print and online products for readers.”
Halifax Media Group, headquartered in Daytona Beach, Fla., purchased the Press Democrat in January from the New York Times Co. for a reported $143 million, in a deal that included 15 other regional newspapers, most located in the Southeast.
The Press Democrat was purchased by the New York Times from the Finley family in 1985 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for spot news photography. In 2004, the paper won a prestigious George Polk award for journalistic integrity and investigative reporting. Its current circulation is about 56,000.
The purchase includes the Press Democrat’s Rohnert Park printing plant, built for an estimated $30 million following the New York Times purchase.
The weekly Petaluma Argus Courier has been published for 155 years and has an award-winning website, Petaluma360.com.
The North Bay Business Journal, founded in 1988, is a weekly print and online business newspaper covering Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Lake Counties.
Responding to the announcement of the sale, Halifax Media CEO Michael Redding, said, “Sonoma Media is funded by investors who live in the community and care about their local newspaper. We purchased the businesses earlier this year and have been impressed with the outstanding staff and excellent publications. Considering 90 percent of our company is based in the Southeast, it makes geographic sense for Sonoma Media to own the business.”