Are You Ready to Sell the Family Newspaper? A Nonprofit May be an Option.

June 16, 2022, |
Jan Davis, Media Content Creator, Interviewed James McDonald, Senior Associate/Advisor, Grimes, McGovern & Associate

Hundreds of newspapers in the U.S. have been owned and operated by multi-generational families. But when the family business owners want to retire, many find that their children don’t want to take over the business. Naturally, these owners are concerned about who takes the newspapers forward and if the papers will remain sustainable.

Many owners are looking to nonprofit ownership structures to carry out the family legacy of providing local news. According to the Knight Foundation, “More publishers are trying out public benefit corporations, journalist-owned LLCs and cooperatives to tie publications closer to communities.” The Institute for Nonprofit News concurs, reporting that the local sector of nonprofit news is proliferating, with an average of nearly one launch monthly for the past three years.

James McDonald, Senor Associate with Grimes, McGovern, and Associates, recently advised on one such transition to a nonprofit structure. McDonald exclusively represented the New Jersey Hills Media Group (Hills Group) in selling its assets to the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media (CNJLM), a nonprofit organization founded in 2020.

With 17 community papers and 15 community websites, the Hills Group was the largest independent weekly newspaper group in New Jersey. Its owners wanted to preserve their family’s legacy of public-minded ownership and ensure the future of their papers in an era where local news is increasingly threatened by corporate interests. “It was not only in the family’s interest but desire to go to a nonprofit. That’s where they wanted to leave the legacy of the newspapers that had been in their family for a long time,” McDonald says.

There are a variety of ownership models that newspaper owners can consider. In the case of the Hills Group, McDonald needed to identify the nonprofit that would make the most sense. The acquisition of the Hills Group was made possible through a fundraising campaign supported by numerous members of the communities the papers serve.

Succession is a critical time for family businesses; it is a process, not an event. “For a successful transition, the owners need someone to guide them on each of the steps of the transaction,” adds McDonald. It took one year to convert the Hills Group to nonprofit ownership. All involved parties were happy with the result because it preserves the group’s legacy of quality, community-focused journalism and expands the reach and strength of local news.

This successful transaction journey began with a complimentary initial assessment and advice from Grimes, McGovern & Associates. The NJ Hills was exclusively represented by James McDonald of Grimes, McGovern & Associates, a NY-based M&A firm. James can be contacted at 1.215.668.3678 or jmcdonald@mediamergers.com

Media/PR and Advisory Questions Contact:  John McGovern, CEO/Owner at (212) 255-9700 or email: jmcgovern@mediamergers.com

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