Stephens' Halifax Made Money Before Sale to New Media

Stephens' Halifax Made Money Before Sale to New Media

A recent U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filing by the company that bought Halifax Media, the private newspaper chain partially owned by Warren Stephens, revealed more details about his company’s financials.

The $280 million purchase by New Media Investment Group Inc. of New York City closed on Jan. 9, less than two months after the deal was announced. Halifax, of Daytona Beach, Florida, published 36 newspapers, primarily in the southeast United States. New Media’s holdings at the time included 450 community publications, more than 350 websites and six yellow page directories.

According to documents later filed with the SEC, Halifax was a good investment.

It reported $27.6 million in net income in 2012, which decreased to $26.8 million in 2013, largely due to a 9 percent increase in operating expenses. In the first nine months of 2014, the company’s net income was $21.76 million on total revenue of $250.1 million. That was on track with 2013’s full-year revenue of $328.3 million.

The filing also reveals previously undisclosed figures regarding sales of properties and acquisitions at Halifax, including:

  • In June 2012, the company purchased eight daily and 11 weekly newspapers from Freedom Communications Group for $59.25 million.
  • Five months later, it sold the Santa Rosa, California, Press Democrat along with its affiliated publications for $17.87 million.
  • In September 2013, Halifax bought HarborPoint Media LLC, the owner of three daily newspapers in Florida, for $3.5 million.
  • In June 2013, Halifax bought the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Massachusetts, for $17.4 million. The paper was owned by John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Globe, who paid $70 million for the paper and the Globe in 2009.

In total, the Halifax properties were assembled for just over $243 million, beginning in the spring of 2010, and sold in two phases for almost $298 million.

Stephens also owns a 50 percent stake in Stephens Media Group of Las Vegas, which owns newspapers including the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Times of North Little Rock as well as the Arkansas News Bureau.

Stephens said in an interview with Arkansas Business in 2012 that 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 in the community — you’re just not going to be plugged in without a newspaper,” he said.

New Media doesn’t appear to be slowing down after the purchase of Halifax. The company said in a press release last week that it had raised $152 million by selling 7 million shares of common stock. That money could be used to invest in or acquire additional properties, according to the company.