The Colorado Springs Gazette has been purchased by entities controlled by Philip Anschutz who also owns The Oklahoma Publishing Company, OPUBCO Communications Group, The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com.
Ryan McKibben, CEO of Clarity Media, also owned by Anschutz, made the announcement Friday. The Gazette was sold by Freedom Newspapers of Irvine, Calif.
“This is an exciting announcement,” said Chris Reen, president of OPUBCO Communications Group and publisher of The Oklahoman. “When Phil Anschutz purchased The Oklahoman as part of OPUBCO 14 months ago, he made clear his belief in the importance of the newspaper business and his plan to be in it for the long haul. This newest acquisition reaffirms his commitment to the industry and its viability. We feel great about it at The Oklahoman.”
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
The Gazette was founded in 1872 and was acquired by Freedom Communications in 1946. The Gazette is the second largest daily newspaper in Colorado behind the Denver Post, with a daily circulation of 74,172 and a Sunday circulation of 85,718.
A veteran reporter and editor from The Oklahoman, Joe Hight, will be named as The Gazette's editor after the acquisition. Hight has 30 years of journalism experience. He also concentrated on the online development of NewsOK.com.
Hight led information efforts that include the “Know It” online communities and “Your Right to Know” projects, which won the national Society of Professional Journalists' “Public Service in Online Journalism” awards as well as regional, state and national First Amendment awards.
While at The Oklahoman in 1995, he was team leader for victim coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing that won two Society of Professional Journalists awards, a national Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Violence and many other awards.
Hight later served for two terms as president of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, an international organization based at Columbia University with offices in London and Melbourne. He authored and co-authored print and online booklets and columns that are still used by the Dart Center, including “Tragedies & Journalists: A Guide for More Effective Coverage” that has been translated into three different languages and is being updated for its second edition in 2011.
“Joe has been a tremendous asset to us. We will miss him, but we are thrilled with this new opportunity,” said Kelly Dyer Fry, Editor of The Oklahoman and vice president of news for OPUBCO Communications group. “We are looking forward to working with the Gazette's newsroom under Joe's leadership. It also opens up career advancement and mobility opportunities for our staff that we have not had in the past. Having three newspapers within the same family will afford myriad partnership possibilities.”
McKibben, who will serve as chairman of The Gazette organization, noted the region's diversity and potential growth as key motivations for the acquisition. He also intends to make immediate improvements to the newspaper.
Christian Anschutz, who will serve as vice chairman of The Gazette, said, “Readers will see rather immediate results of our commitment.”
The acquisition is the latest among industry deals by prominent business leaders who have found attractive investment opportunity within the newspaper sector.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway last year bought the Omaha World-Herald. And Little Rock, Ark., financier Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc., is a partner in Halifax Media Holdings which bought 16 newspapers from The New York Times.
Buffet earlier this year also acquired 63 newspapers formerly owned by Richmond, Va.-based Media General Inc.
Stephens recently told Forbes magazine he was “very optimistic” about the newspaper business. “... professional content is going to be really, really important,” he said.