ABERDEEN, S.D.—Schurz Communications Inc. of Indiana plans to buy the Aberdeen American News, Publisher Jerome Ferson told Aberdeen staff on Wednesday.
The South Bend, Ind.-based company plans to make no major changes, Ferson said at a staff meeting.
The American News will be Schurz's fourth-largest newspaper and the only one in South Dakota.
Schurz Communications Inc. publishes 12 daily and six weekly newspapers with a combined circulation of almost 225,000. The largest is the South Bend Tribune in South Bend.
The sale of the American News will occur shortly after the sale of Knight Ridder to the McClatchy Co. of California, which is expected to be finalized on or around June 27.
According to the company's Web site, Schurz Communications also owns a printing company, shopping guides, phone directories, two cable companies, four television stations and seven radio stations in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The company has also entered into nonbinding letters of intent with the Rushmore Radio Company of Rapid City, which owns six radio stations in the Black Hills.
Three Schurz representatives met with Ferson and American News Director of Finance Lori Salfrank during the second week of May. The representatives were Marty Switalski, Schurz Communications vice president of finance and administration; Dave Leone, publisher of the Schurz-owned Imperial Valley Press in El Centro, Calif.; and Adlai Stevenson IV, an independent consultant for Schurz. They also toured the American News.
"They were clearly a good company," Ferson said.
Switalski said Wednesday in a telephone interview that he was impressed with the newspaper and with Aberdeen as a community.
"We thought that the American News was a very well-run daily newspaper that was very community-oriented, and we liked what we saw," he said.
Schurz Communications Inc. President Todd Schurz said in that same telephone interview Wednesday that the company researched Aberdeen and the region to help make the decision to bid for the American News.
"The more we learned about Aberdeen, the more attractive it became to us," he said.
Schurz also said his company does not have any major changes planned for the American News.
"People need to know the market to be in touch with the customers and the readers," Schurz said. "We think that people closer to the market and closer to the customers will have better insight."
Ferson and Schurz said Schurz Communications' values are in sync with the American News' values: community involvement and customer and employee satisfaction.
"It really is one of the best outcomes we could have hoped for," Ferson said. "Schurz (Communications) will be a welcome addition to the community."
Schurz Communications bought the Petoskey News-Review in Petoskey, Mich., on March 30 and the Winchester Sun in Winchester, Ky., in August 2005.
Kimberly Hays, advertising director at the Winchester Sun, said Schurz Communications is a relaxed and goal-oriented company.
"Their core values are what you would want an independent company's core values to be," she said. "They're in it for the right reasons."
Schurz said that he and a few other company representatives plan to visit the American News sometime next week.
Because of nondisclosure agreements, it is unknown how many companies placed bids for the American News.
"There was a lot of interest in the paper," Ferson said. "The fact that (Schurz Communications) prevailed demonstrates their commitment right out of the gate."
According to a press release from McClatchy, financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed at the buyer's request. However, another McClatchy press release stated the American News; the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal; Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune; Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald; and The Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel were being sold for a total of about $450 million.
The Grand Forks Herald and Duluth News Tribune were bought by Forum Communications Inc. of Fargo, N.D. Forum Communications also expressed interest in the American News, and it was widely believed that the three papers would be purchased together.
In March, McClatchy Company agreed to buy Knight Ridder's 32 newspapers for $6.5 billion, which included assuming about $2 billion of debt. McClatchy immediately announced it would sell 12 of the Knight Ridder papers.
The other papers Schurz Communications owns are the Herald Times in Bloomington, Ind.; the Times Mail in Bedford, Ind.; the Reporter Times in Martinsville, Ind.; the Mooresville-Decatur Times in Mooresville, Ind.; the Noblesville Daily Times in Noblesville, Ind.; the Fishers Weekly in Fishers, Ind.; The Advocate-Messenger in Danville, Ky; The Interior Journal in Stanford, Ky.; The Jessamine Journal in Nicholasville, Ky.; the Gaylord Herald Times in Gaylord, Mich.; the Charlevoix Courier in Charlevoix, Mich.; the Herald-Mail AM and Herald-Mail PM in Hagerstown, Md.; and the Daily American in Somerset, Pa.
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Visit The American News Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.aberdeennews.com
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GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20060607 KNIGHTRIDDER SALE
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