Vineyard Gazette sold today for $3.5 million

Island Philanthropists Jerome & Nancy Kohlberg are the new owners

By Walter Brooks

I want the Gazette to be a vibrant voice for the Vineyard community far into the future—continuing the wonderful traditions from the past, offering excellent, in-depth journalism, reaching the Vineyard’s diverse communities, and adapting, as necessary, to the changing economic conditions which are affecting print media,”
Kohlberg said in a statement.

The Vineyard Gazette reported today that the family-owned weekly newspaper which has been a prominent, much-decorated and enduring chronicle of Island life for 164 years, was sold to new owners, according to the newspaper's publisher Richard Reston.

The weekly said the buyers are Jerome and Nancy Kohlberg, longtime seasonal residents of the Island who live in and operate businesses from Mount Kisco, N.Y.

The Kohlbergs have been quiet philanthropists on the Vineyard for many decades according to the newspaper, especially in the areas of conservation and education.

The total Gazette purchase price is $3.5 million; $1.5 million will be paid for the Gazette real estate and $2 million will be paid for the newspaper business.

Two great newspapers on one, small island

The island has two weekly newspapers, both privately owned, which is rare enough in today's conglomerate mania.

The two have always reflected a "town vs. gown" difference, the newer Martha's Vineyard Times seeming to attract readers who are year-rounders and middle American as opposed to the Gazette's upscale readers and seasonal property owners.

The two weeklies, both of the first rank editorially, are a little like the difference between the New York Times and the New York Daily News.

Gazette publisher Dick Reston comes from a newspaper family. Both he and his brother are journalists, and his late father, "Scotty" Reston, was the famous and highly respected Bureau Chief and columnist for the New York Times.

The Gazette has fought against the growing commercialism of the Vineyard and even was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Bob in 1991.

Martha's Vineyard is indeed blessed to have two such superior newspapers serving the island's  15,000 population which swells to ten times that number every summer.

What's next for The Gazette?

Jerome Kohlberg is one of the Ks in KKR as in Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts, one of the world's largest private equity firms specializing in leveraged buyouts. Although he ceased an active role in the business he founded, as recently as 2008 he popped up on Forbes' list of billionaires.

And as recently as yesterday KKR led a group in the $4 billion buyout of Del Monte food company, so although it would be lovely, it's difficult to imagine Mr. and Mrs. Kohlberg hunkering down in Dick's old office in Edgertown any time soon.

More likely the Kohlbergs have a great affection for this great newspaper, and they will find a highly competent newspaperman to run it for them with a superb staff of writers already in place.

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