Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Paxton Media buys Landmark Community Newspapers

Map by The Rural Blog denotes newspaper ownership and company headquarters towns.
See last paragraph for an UPDATE on the newspapers in Grayson County.

This story has been updated.

One of America's larger community newspaper companies is buying the other.

Paxton Media Group of Paducah, Ky., announced Tuesday that it is buying Landmark Community Newspapers LLC, a chain of 44 weekly and two daily newspapers based in Shelbyville, Ky.

Landmark has 19 papers in Kentucky, including The News-Enterprise, the daily in the Hardin County seat of Elizabethtown. Its other daily is the Citrus County Chronicle in Crystal River, Fla. Paxton has 18 Kentucky papers, with dailies in Owensboro, Madisonville, Hopkinsville and its headquarters city of Paducah, where the family-owned company has its only television station. With the purchase, it will have 119 publications in 14 states, according to a story in its papers.

"PMG believes strongly in the value of local newspapers and the vital role they play in the communities that they serve," said Jamie Paxton, PMG president and CEO. "We appreciate Landmark choosing us to be the new stewards of these important community assets."

Landmark's papers have been for sale for more than 13 years. The Norfolk-based Batten family sold its dailies in that city, Greensboro, N.C., and Roanoke, Va., years ago. The community-newspaper company has been based in Shelbyville since its founding in 1968 by a group of eight weekly newspaper publishers and the Battens' purchase in 1973. The company also has publications in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Indiana and Iowa.

The purchase price was not revealed, but the transaction is one of the largest involving community newspapers in some time, said Lewis Floyd of Business Valuation Consulting, a newspaper and business broker who specializes in small papers.

“Paxton has been interested in acquiring newspapers as part of our strategy given the conditions and the nature of the newspaper industry,” said Mike Weafer, publisher of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer and group publisher for the company's Kentucky-Indiana region. “Acquisitions strengthen us and help us to persevere, so it is part of an overall strategy to continue to acquire newspapers.”

Paxton's purchase "continues an ongoing effort at PMG to acquire community newspapers in the company's existing geographic footprint," said its story, which quoted no one from Landmark. A version of the story in the Chronicle quoted Publisher Gerry Mulligan: “Paxton Media is a strong newspaper company that brings years of expertise to our company.” Landmark has eight papers in Florida.

The story said PMG will officially take over the Landmark papers on June 8, "but there will be a transition period to PMG regarding systems and procedures, Weafer said."

The deal is likely to means the end of one paper, because the companies have weeklies in Leitchfield, Ky., an unusual if not unique situation for chain-owned weeklies. Many years ago Landmark bought The Record, a locally owned competitor to the Grayson County News-Gazette, to make it part of a cluster with its Elizabethtown daily. It gained the local circulation lead and thus the public-notice advertising, and the News-Gazette changed hands more than once before Paxton bought it in in 2017, along with two other papers. Its circulation is now less than 1,000, in a county of 26,000 people, but Paxton now owns the market. It announced June 24 that the papers would be consolidated under the name Grayson County News, the name of the paper that merged with The Leitchfield Gazette in 1977.

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