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MEDIA—Copley May Sell Illinois Papers After Buying One in Ohio



Media: U-T Sister Firm, Fox Valley Press, Is

On the Bidding Block

The Copley Press, Inc. might sell several newspapers it owns in northern Illinois.

The announcement comes on the heels of the La Jolla company’s purchase of an Ohio newspaper earlier this summer. The owner of local metropolitan newspaper the San Diego Union-Tribune, La Jolla-based Copley has no plans to put its flagship paper on the market, said vice president Harold W. Fuson, Jr.

Fuson, also the chief legal officer for the company, confirmed Copley is considering selling the assets of its Plainfield, Ill.-based subsidiary, the Fox Valley Press. “We have indicated that we are interested in offers for it,” he said. “We’re not sure ultimately what will occur there, but we felt the nature of the process required us to make a public announcement and let the world know that we were examining the possibility of a sale of those properties.” The Fox Valley Press owns four papers: the Beacon News in Aurora, the Courier News in Elgin, the Herald News in Joliet and the News Sun in Waukegan. It also publishes the Sun Newspapers, based in Naperville, Ill., which is a group of 15 non-daily newspapers in the Chicago market.

Collectively, the newspapers have a daily circulation of 107,000 and an estimated weekend circulation of 123,000. Other publications have reported that the Fox Valley Press newspapers are valued at more than $150 million. Copley has hired New York City firm Veronis, Suhler & Associates Inc. to examine the sales options. Copley terminated talks about Fox Valley Press with an unnamed company in mid-July, Veronis announced last month. Published reports list the Chicago-based Tribune Co. and Dixon, Ill.-based Shaw Newspapers among interested buyers. Both own several papers in Illinois.

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Changing Marketplace

Fuson said Copley is selling the Fox Valley subsidiary because it feels the assets could be better used elsewhere. The markets and the way the paper and its competition related to the communities has changed, he said.

“We’ve been thinking carefully about the future of those newspapers for some time and finally reached the conclusion that they might be better off in somebody else’s hands,” he said.

The Repository in Canton, Ohio, was Copley’s first purchase outside of Illinois and California, Fuson noted. When the deal was made in June, it marked Copley’s first purchase since 1996, when the company bought the Journal Star of Peoria, Ill., and nearby subsidiary the Galesburg Register-Mail. The amount Copley paid Thomson Corp. for the paper was not disclosed. In February, Toronto-based Thomson was selling 54 newspapers , all of its newspaper operations except for Canada’s national paper, The Globe & Mail. Like many modern newspaper acquisitions, the Repository’s market had a “strategic relationship” to what his company already owned, he added. “Canton is in Ohio, but actually it’s a community that’s similar in many respects to Peoria,” Fuson said. “It’s about the same size, the newspaper’s a little smaller, but we feel we know how to operate in that kind of a market, so it was very attractive to us,” he continued. Gregg Knowles, president of Knowles Media Brokerage Services in Montclair, Calif., wasn’t surprised by Copley’s plans. “It’s just following the trend that seems to be prevalent in the industry of consolidation and reshuffling of properties in order to gain maximum efficiency of their operations,” Knowles said.

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