Merger and ac­qui­si­tion rm dis­cusses trends

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Contents - ▶ SPE­CIAL TO NEWS & TECH FROM SARA APRIL, PHIL MUR­RAY, OWEN VAN ESSEN

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray is a New Mex­ico-based merger and ac­qui­si­tion firm. Since its in­cep­tion in 1980, the firm has fo­cused pri­mar­ily on as­sist­ing com­pa­nies in the sale, ac­qui­si­tion and val­u­a­tion of daily and weekly news­pa­pers for a va­ri­ety of pur­poses. News & Tech caught up with part­ners Owen Van Essen, Sara April and Phil Mur­ray for their take on some re­cent trends in the in­dus­try.

News & Tech: Are news­pa­pers chang­ing hands at a faster rate to­day than they did his­tor­i­cally?

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray: On av­er­age, daily news­pa­pers have ac­tu­ally been owned by the same owner for a longer pe­riod of time than pre­vi­ously. Re­cently, quite a num­ber of long-time fam­ily-owned news­pa­pers that have sold – many owned by the same fam­ily for more than 100 years – and be­cause of that we be­lieve there might be a per­cep­tion that news­pa­pers are chang­ing hands at a more rapid rate than they his­tor­i­cally have changed hands.

News & Tech: How long, on av­er­age, have daily news­pa­pers been held in the same own­er­ship?

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray: On av­er­age, a daily news­pa­per has been owned for 31 years by its cur­rent owner. That com­pares to 28 years un­der its pre­vi­ous own­er­ship.

News & Tech: How does this com­pare to other businesses?

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray: Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­ness, the av­er­age length of own­er­ship for a small busi­ness in the U.S. is just un­der 9 years.

News & Tech: You men­tioned ear­lier that a num­ber of long-time fam­ily own­ers have sold their news­pa­pers. Are we get­ting close to the point where the in­dus­try will no longer have fam­ily own­ers?

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray: No, not at all. There re­main around 200 fam­ily own­ers of daily news­pa­pers.

News & Tech: How many of those are owned for 100 years or more?

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray: In­clud­ing the news­pa­per that are owned by groups, there are about 80 dailies that have been owned by the same com­pany for 100 years or more. News & Tech: Why are in­de­pen­dent own­ers of daily news­pa­pers sell­ing?

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray: It would take more space than you have to fully an­swer that ques­tion. In­de­pen­dent own­ers sell for many rea­sons. In some in­stances, these own­ers feel a need to be af­fil­i­ated with a larger group to take ad­van­tage of economies of scale. In other cases, fam­ily op­er­a­tions run out of in­ter­ested and ca­pa­ble fam­ily mem­bers to lead the or­ga­ni­za­tion, and in other in­stances the fam­ily mem­bers feel un­cer­tain about nav­i­gat­ing the chal­lenges cur­rently fac­ing the in­dus­try.

News & Tech: Are there any new buy­ers en­ter­ing the busi­ness?

Dirks, Van Essen & Mur­ray: Yes. There have been many larger dailies ac­quired in re­cent years by high pro­file buy­ers in mar­kets like Bos­ton, Min­neapo­lis, Philadel­phia and Wash­ing­ton D.C. In ad­di­tion, our firm has re­cently rep­re­sented sell­ers in more than a dozen smaller mar­ket trans­ac­tions in which a newly formed com­pany has ac­quired the news­pa­pers. We ex­pect to see more of this trend.


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