Who will next own the Cape Cod weekly newspapers?

Cape Cod Times, Patriot Ledger likely buyers 

Yesterday was the deadline for bids to buy that portion of Pat Purcell's Boston Herald and its Community Newspaper Co.'s  sprawling chain of suburban newspapers owned by  Audax Group, Weston Presidio and Halyard Capital (a subsidiary of the Bank of Montreal), which wants out after five years.

Among the potential buyers mentioned is our own daily newspaper's parent company, Dow Jones whose Ottaway Newspaper division recently bought the Barnstable Patriot to add the their chain which includes the Nantucket weekly Inquirer & Mirror and the South Shore daily Standard-Times

Pat Purcell's paradox

CNCThe fly in the ink is that while Ottaway and the South Shore's Enterprise Media (Ledger, Enterprise and MPG)  might love to buy the Cape Cod Community Newspapers, Pat Purcell doesn't want to break up Herald Media since it is the weeklies here which are making the money and the Herald which is bleeding cash. But which ever of those two buys CNC, the weeklies would finally be working for people who understand this market and weeklies, something both Herald Media and its predecessor Fidelity Investments failed at completely.

As reported here in October,  this would mean that our local weeklies, The Cape Codder, the Register, the Upper Cape Codder and the Harwich Oracle would be operated under the third publisher in the last decade, not the way to instill confidence in advertisers or employees.

Publisher Kirk DavisA likely buyer is the investment group Heritage Partners bought the Ledger (Quincy), the Enterprise (Brockton) and 13 MPG Communications (Plymouth) community papers for $113 million five years ago, and hired former CNC Group Publisher Kirk Davis (on right) to run them. Mr. Davis is said to have left CNC after disagreements with Herald Media over policy, and newsroom rumors abound that he's anxious to get back to the cape. He has contacted other local weeklies like the Cape Cod Chronicle to see it could be bought, as has Cape Cod Times Publisher Peter Meyer.

Today's Boston Globe reported that newspaper analyst John Morton said about such a purchase by another newspaper group, ''It is not a promising investment. I don't know of a media company that would want to buy it."  Morton said the most likely investor is another private equity firm to replace the three firms that are cashing out.  The Globe article went on to say that Heritage Partners had confirmed it was among those interested in the Herald Media auction. ''We think it is a good property, and we have a lot of respect for (publisher) Pat (Purcell) and his abilities," said Ross Posner, a Heritage Partners principal. ''The papers have a great position in their communities."

Economies of scale at work in Media Land?

Under the right scenario, a merging of all these into one group would have the potential of great savings in a single printing plant for over 125 newspapers, and the complete lock by Kirk Davis' group of everything from Boston to Provincetown, but it's had to see Peter Meyer allowing this to happen.  

Today's  Herald story reported "Bids were due yesterday from potential investors in the Boston Herald, starting a process that could soon lead to new financial backers or the sale of the paper. “We’re very encouraged by the level of interest in investing with us,” said Patrick J. Purcell, chief executive of Herald Media Inc. and publisher of the Boston Herald. “We would hope it could be concluded in the next several weeks.”

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