The owner of two Vermont newspapers and affiliated publications announced Wednesday night that an agreement has been reached to sell the businesses to a company headed by a Camden man and a New Hampshire resident.
The Mitchell family posted a story stating that it had entered into an agreement to sell the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, as well as affiliated print and online publications, to a company headed by entrepreneur Reade Brower of Camden and by printing and marketing executive Chip Harris of New Hampshire.
Brower is the principal owner of MaineToday Media, which has nearly 400 employees. MaineToday publishes the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and the Coastal Journal in Bath, as well as the pressherald.com, centralmaine.com and mainetoday.com websites.
Brower also owns Alliance Press, a commercial printing company in Brunswick, and publishes four weeklies in midcoast Maine: The Free Press in Rockland, which he and his wife, Martha, founded in 1985, as well as The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal in Belfast, which he purchased in March 2012.
Efforts to reach Brower for comment on the purchase of the Vermont papers were not successful Thursday. Terms of the purchase and sale agreement were not disclosed.
The Herald and Times Argus have about 80 employees, both full and part time.
The Mitchell family has owned the Rutland Herald since 1947 and the Times Argus since 1964. That ownership was in partnership with the Noble family until 1986, when the Mitchells bought out the Nobles.
“We have always held these newspapers in trust for the public. While we’ve always been a privately held company, we believe they are an asset of the communities they serve and of the state of Vermont,” said R. John Mitchell, chairman and president of the Herald Association, in the paper’s story on the pending sale.
“These principles have, in recent years, been challenged by the rapidly changing business environment for newspapers everywhere, and in particular for independent, family-owned newspapers,” he said. “In Reade, we believe we have found a steward for the newspapers who has both the entrepreneurial spirit and record that is crucial, and the community focus and commitment to journalism that has been at the core of our mission for decades. The simple truth is that, as a family, we felt that if we were unable to continue that mission, we needed to find someone who could.”
Two days before the announcement, the Burlington Free Press ran a story about financial troubles at the two newspapers, including that some employee checks bounced. The staff members were later paid, according to the competing paper’s story.
The Herald and Times Argus also publish two free weekly newspapers, the Rutland Reader and the Central Vermont Reader, as well as the websites rutlandherald.com, timesargus.com, vermonttoday.com, businessvermont.com, rutlandreader.com and vermontclassifieds.com, as well as the consumer-focused Go Rutland app.
The Mitchells said they could not release any further information as the papers went to press Wednesday night, but said more details would be released when available.
Harris is a co-founder and formerly was the majority stockholder and president of Upper Valley Press Inc. in North Haverhill, New Hampshire. The 40-year-old company prints newspapers and advertising inserts and operates a saturation mail company that weekly reaches 250,000 homes in eastern Vermont and central New Hampshire.
Prior to starting Upper Valley, he was vice president of client services at Prentiss Court Advertising in Greenville, South Carolina; a reporter and bureau chief with the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia; and a reporter with the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in Massachusetts. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.