Interesting that an investment company owned by Little Rock financier Warren Stephens has purchased 16 newspapers from the New York Times to add to a newspaper Halifax Media already owned in Daytona Beach, Fla. Industry press says the price — $143 million and change for more than 400,000 in daily circulation — represents a dramatic reduction in the value the newspapers once held. Of course, that’s true with all newspapers. The Stephens family made plenty from media holdings after buying the Donrey Media company, but recent years have been no kinder to them than anyone else. They gave up the Northwest Arkansas newspaper war against Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman to settle for a profit-sharing arrangement; they’ve seen a dramatic drop in profits at their Las Vegas newspaper, once a phenomenal cash cow, and they’ve been restructuring some other Arkansas newspaper properties.
Analysts say, however, that community newspapers still hold solid niches and, for the right price for someone who might have cash to invest, could offer a decent return still.
One way to enhance profits is to lay people off and end expensive defined-benefit pension plans. Both possibilities have been discussed in web chatter about this sale. The notice from the New York Times to current employees of the new Halifax properties about the likelihood that some will be losing jobs is a pretty cold piece of work.
Corporate history of Halifax holdings here, including other Stephens Inc. employees in Little Rock who are part of the management team.
Press coverage of the sale in Florida papers has included speculation that Halifax Media might merge with the Stephens Media organization that, according to on-line citations, owns 11 daily and 64 weekly papers in Arkansas, Nevada and seven other states.