The longtime family-owned company that owns several community newspapers in central Indiana—including The Columbus Republic, the Franklin Daily Journal and the Greenfield Reporter—has been sold to a Texas-based media company.
AIM Media Indiana LLC, a subsidiary of AIM Media Texas LLC, announced Wednesday it has purchased the print and online newspaper and commercial printing assets from Columbus-based Home News Enterprises LLC.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. AIM said all of HNE’s employees would be hired by the new company. HNE’s vice president Chuck Wells did not immediately reply to IBJ’s request for comment.
HNE publications in the transaction include the daily newspapers in Columbus, Greenfield, Franklin and Seymour, weekly newspapers in Pendleton and Nashville, and a variety of other publications and a commercial printing business.
AIM said HNE’s president and CEO Jeffrey N. Brown—whose family had a role in founding the first iteration of the company back in 1872—would remain with the company.
“We have great admiration for Jeff and for his leadership at Home these past 20-plus years and we are very flattered to have this opportunity to become directly involved with these important, high-quality, local journalism operations,” said AIM CEO Jeremy Halbreich in a written statement.
In an email to HNE employees obtained by IBJ, Brown told the affected newsrooms that it was a tough decision to end six generations of his family’s ownership of the operation.
“Making this decision has been extremely difficult and emotional for me, but I believe it to be in the best interest for the future of these important community assets and the future growth of the company,” Brown said in the email.
Brown said HNE is owned by 14 family members from three different family branches and no one owner has a majority interest in the company.
"There comes a point in time in older multi-generational family businesses where the family members, many of whom are in retirement, need an exit strategy from their ownership to pursue other interests," Brown said.
The news comes as part of a continuing trend of consolidation in the journalism and media business.
John Krull, director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, said the news may have been inevitable, but it made him feel “a little bit wistful.”
“I think we always lose something when we lose that local voice,” Krull said. “The Browns, in some ways, are like the Pulliam family in that whether one agreed or disagreed, there was at least the assurance that they were one of us.”
Krull said the news of the buyer was “somewhat reassuring” because AIM owns several community newspapers in Texas.
“I’m assuming the new owners aren’t going to find too much fat to trim away,” Krull said. “But we all know this business. We’ve been subject to trends and forces that are larger than our own backyards. It’s just a sign that we live in volatile times.”
The following publications were included in the transaction:
— Franklin Daily Journal
— The Crier of Camp Atterbury
— Edinburgh Courier
— Greenfield Daily Reporter
— Fortville/McCordsville Reporter
— New Palestine Reporter
— The Republic of Columbus
— Brown County Democrat
— Times-Post of Pendleton