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; Maurer and Schloss are both 77.
“We had to be very careful. We didn’t want the IBJ just sold to anyone,” Maurer said. “We wanted a caretaker who would take care of the IBJ as an asset to the community like we have. Nate has the intelligence, energy and passion for the business to do that.”
Feltman’s purchase of additional shares, which closed April 17, 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,” he 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.
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 COVID-19 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.
Maurer said it’s been a joy owning IBJ.
“There’s an old saying in entrepreneurship: Never fall in love with your business. Long ago, I made the mistake of falling in love with my business at the IBJ. It’s been a wondrous thing for me to experience and enjoy.”
Maurer said he has especially enjoyed when IBJ broke stories before other news outlets and also going on ad sales calls with IBJ sales representatives—which he did for many years.
“I like being the best and IBJ is the best in the market, so it’s great to be associated with that,” he said.•