Indianapolis entrepreneur and business executive Nate Feltman has upped his ownership stake in IBJ Media, parent of Indianapolis Business Journal and The Indiana Lawyer, from one-third to 50% and is joining the company full time as president and CEO.
Feltman, an attorney and former Indiana commerce secretary, had acquired a one-third stake in IBJ Media from Indianapolis businessmen Mickey Maurer and Bob Schloss in 2017 as part of a succession plan aimed at keeping the company in local hands.
Feltman turns 50 next month, while Maurer and Schloss are both 77.
His purchase of additional shares, which closed Friday, leaves Maurer and Schloss—who have owned the company since 1990—with 25% stakes. Terms of Feltman’s purchase were not disclosed.
IBJ’s current president and publisher, Greg Morris, will continue as publisher, with the news departments of IBJ and The Indiana Lawyer reporting to him. Morris will report to Feltman, who will oversee the company’s finance, events, advertising, information technology and circulation departments.
“Greg and I like this setup a lot,” Feltman said. “We both feel like it plays into our strong suits. Greg is strong on the [news] side, and I’m strong on the business side. He and I have enjoyed a really strong working relationship.”
Morris, 64, who has been with the company 29 years, said he anticipates retiring in 2021 but hasn’t set an exact date.
“It’s the exact right move at the exact right time for the company,” Morris said of Feltman’s becoming president and CEO. “I couldn’t be more upbeat, positive and confident in the future of IBJ.”
Morris will continue to moderate IBJ events and will continue to write his every-other-week column.
“I expect actually to have more time to be able to be more visible in the community,” Morris said.
Feltman said that, when he bought into IBJ, he planned to eventually acquire full ownership. He said that is still the case, though there is no specific timetable for doing so.
While the coronavirus outbreak didn’t play into his decision to step in as president and CEO, he said it does add urgency to his new job.
“Over the last 2-1/2 years, I’ve really enjoyed working with the team at IBJ, and I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “Over the last year, I began thinking about coming in as CEO. I love leading teams, setting a vision and working with a team to accomplish those goals.”
He added: “In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, there’s no doubt I feel a higher degree of urgency to get started. I started digging in when the pandemic hit because I felt the need to help.”
Feltman has minority investments in a variety of ventures, including real estate, a chain of liquor stores and Blend Cigar Bar. He owned Home Health Depot and served as its president from 2010 until its sale in 2017. Maurer and Schloss also held Home Health Depot stakes.
Despite the challenges many newspapers face—which have been compounded by the coronavirus outbreak—Feltman said he remains bullish on IBJ’s future.
“We went into this crisis on very solid financial footing,” he said. “We had a great first quarter. Like a lot of companies, it’s been a bit choppy since. But we have zero debt, which is a great place to be for any company, and we’re in a good position to weather the storm.”
Additionally, Feltman said, the pandemic has proven how important local news is.
“I’m very bullish on local news, and how important that will continue to be,” he said. “Long term, I believe with every bone in my body the need for local news is never going to go away. We are providing news no one else is. We’re providing information that is critical for people to make business and life decisions.”
Feltman noted that IBJ is on target to hit its highest circulation mark in its 40-year history.
“That shows we are in high demand and how important the information we provide is,” said Feltman, who added that the company is making big investments in its digital content.
“I’ve brought in a number of people who have experience with high-growth, innovative companies,” he added. “If you don’t innovate, you die. And we’re definitely going to continue to innovate.”