New Media Investment Group Inc. of New York City has announced plans to purchase Halifax Media, the newspaper chain partially owned by Warren Stephens, for $280 million.
Halifax of Daytona Beach, Florida, publishes 36 newspapers, primarily in the southeast United States.
The company said in a news release that the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015.
Michael E. Reed, the president and CEO of New Media, said in the news release that the purchase allowed the company to diversify "from both a geographic and customer standpoint."
"This is a very exciting day for our company. Halifax Media is one of the premier, locally oriented media companies in the United States whose business fits extremely well within New Media," Reed said. "Michael Redding, chief executive officer of Halifax Media, and his team have done a wonderful job building one of the best, local media businesses in the country, and we look forward to continuing their tradition of producing high quality, local content and products serving their communities."
New Media’s holdings include 450 community publications, more than 350 websites and six yellow page directories. The publicly traded company operates in 27 states.
Redding said in the news release that there is "so much potential for these publications, especially with our digital products and services.
"New Media is acquiring a company that has amazing employees, premier products, and businesses located in some of the best markets in the Southeast. By combining New Media’s geographic footprint with Halifax Media’s southeast reach it will be a powerhouse in the industry."
Stephens, the CEO of Stephens Inc. in Little Rock, began his investment in Halifax through Stephens Inc.'s subsidary Stephens Capital Partners in 2010. In April of that year, the company purchased The Daytona Beach News-Journal for $20 million.
Two years later, Halifax purchased 16 newspapers from the New York Times Co. for $143 million. Later that year, it snapped up 20 newspapers in Florida and North Carolina from Freedom Communications Inc. of Irvine, California.
The company's most recent purchase was in June, when it announced a deal to a deal to buy the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Massachusetts, from John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Globe. The price of that purchase wasn't announced, but it was estimated at between $7 million and $15 million.
In an interview with Arkansas Business in 2012, Stephens said he believes in local news, even though the days of easy profits were "way over."
"It may not be in the same [profit] relationship that it always has been, but you are just not going to find the stories that are of interest to you locally, businesswise, politically, civically — what's going on the community — you're just not going to be plugged in without a newspaper," he said.
Stephens has other newspaper interests. He owns a 50 percent stake in Stephens Media Group of Las Vegas, which owns newspapers including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Times of North Little Rock and the Arkansas News Bureau.
In October, Stephens Media sold some of its newspapers in Hawaii and Washington.