Thursday, March 08, 2018

HD Media high bidder on Charleston Gazette-Mail as auction begins; Ogden Media says it won't counterbid

UPDATE, March 9: The auction ended with no other bidders and the judge has approved the sale. Robert Nutting said in a letter, "We believe that we bid a full and fair price . . . We are very pleased that another company has indicated a willingness to take on this challenge." An HD Media representative said "not everybody, but most people" would keep their jobs, Lacie Pierson reports.

"Among the investors in HD Media’s purchase of the Gazette-Mail are Brian Jarvis, president of NCWV Media, which publishes The State Journal and The Exponent-Telegram [of Clarksburg] and W. Marston 'Marty' Becker of Australia-based QBE Insurance Group." Pierson reports. "Becker partnered with Bray Cary in the early 2000s to create West Virginia Media, which operated The State Journal and several West Virginia television stations. The TV stations were sold in 2015, and NCWV Media assumed control of The State Journal in 2016, with Cary remaining a minority partner. It was unclear Thursday what kind of operational relationship those media entities would have with the purchase of the Gazette-Mail." The State Journal is focused on business and government.

UPDATE, March 22: The Nuttings apparently chose an alternative purchase. On March 6, it was announced that they had bought Virginia's Harrisonburg Daily News-Record and The Winchester Star, along with four weeklies, for an undisclosed price. "The acquisition gives the firm a continuous string of small-town newspapers from western Maryland to eastern West Virginia and south, into the Shenandoah Valley," including the Northern Virginia Daily, a Star rival, notes Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The owners of Ogden Newspapers have decided not to continue bidding on the purchase of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, which leaves HD Media the highest bidder in the auction to buy West Virginia's largest newspaper. The auction began at noon today.

Ogden bid $10.91 million on the paper, which declared bankruptcy on Jan. 30. HD Media countered with an $11.4 million bid on Monday, Lacie Pierson reports for the Gazette-Mail. An attorney for Charleston Newspapers, Brian Audette, told Pierson that Ogden officials do not intend to place another bid.

"If HD Media is the successful bidder after the auction, the only legal step it will have before owning the Gazette-Mail will be a hearing Friday, when U.S. District Judge Frank Volk will make his final ruling on the sale of West Virginia's largest newspaper," Pierson reports. "After Volk hands down his order on the sale Friday, the sale should be closed on or before March 31, according to an order he handed down in February."

HD Media is the Huntington-based parent company of the Herald-Dispatch. It also owns the Wayne County News, the Logan Banner, Williamson Daily News, the Coal Valley News and the Pineville Independent Herald. "Doug Reynolds, a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates who was the Democratic candidate for West Virginia attorney general in 2016, is the managing partner of HD Media," Pierson reports. The company's papers are printed at the Gazette-Mail.

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