After selling the Helena World in 2019, The Pine Bluff Commercial in 2020 and the Hot Springs Village Voice this year, The Gannett Co. has sold its longest-held Arkansas newspaper, the Baxter Bulletin of Mountain Home.
Gannett, the Virginia-based publisher of USA Today, announced Thursday that it had sold the Bulletin and four Missouri newspapers to Phillips Media Group of Harrison for an undisclosed sum. Phillips, which publishes the Harrison Daily Times and the Newton County Times, was founded by former Baxter Bulletin Publisher Rupert E. Phillips.
Gannett has been targeting “inefficiencies” in its newspaper chain, the largest in the United States, since it announced its acquisition by the parent company of GateHouse Media Group in August 2019.
While taking on the Gannett Co. name, GateHouse sold the Helena World to local investors a month later. The $1.8 billion GateHouse-Gannett deal was finalized in November 2019.
In September 2020, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and its parent company, Wehco Media Inc. of Little Rock, bought the Pine Bluff Commercial and integrated it into the Little Rock paper’s online and Sunday print reports.
Gannett sold the Hot Springs Village Voice to former GateHouse publisher Jennifer Allen earlier this year, and in recent months negotiated the multi-paper sale to Phillips. Allen’s plans for the Voice were the subject of a Whisper in the Aug. 9 issue of Arkansas Business.
Gannett had owned the daily newspaper since 1995.
Along with Baxter County’s paper of record and the downtown Mountain Home building it has occupied since 1984, Phillips acquired The Big Nickel, a publication in Joplin, the Rolla Daily News, the Kirksville Daily Express and the NEMO Trader in La Plata. All four Missouri publications are in Phillips Media’s general geographic footprint.
Rupert Phillips started as an ad salesman at the Montgomery Advertiser, working for Publisher Harold E. Martin, who also owned the Baxter Bulletin. In the 1970s, Phillips became Martin’s publisher in Mountain Home for five years, then bought his first paper, the Mountain Echo of Yellville.
Phillips has a long history with Gannett, and was profiled as “Gannett’s Trading Partner” by the American Journalism Review in 2001. He purchased several papers from the chain over the years, including El Diario, the Spanish-language circulation leader in New York.
The Baxter Bulletin, founded in 1901, was locally published until 1976, when it was bought by Multimedia Inc. Gannett acquired Multimedia in 1995.
Dirks, Van Essen & April, a media acquisition consultancy in Santa Fe, New Mexico, represented Gannett in the latest transaction, for which the details were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close Sept. 1.
With the new properties, Phillips Media will have 17 newspapers in Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois. It also owns Nowata Printing Co. of Springfield.
“We are excited to bring these publications into our group," Jim Holland, president of Phillips Media Group, said in a statement. "We believe we have the expertise to effectively operate publications in these markets, putting out products that will be valued by the respective communities.”
The deal leaves the Southwest Times Record of Fort Smith as Gannett's only daily paper in Arkansas; GateHouse once had nearly two dozen daily and weekly publications in Arkansas.