Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Merger Mania Hits Garden State

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Merger Mania Hits Garden State

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE tightest newspaper markets in the country just got a whole lot

tighter.

New Jersey, long it bruising newspaper battleground, hosted several newspaper

consolidations in the last few weeks, as two of the state's largest papers made

acquisitions.

Macromedia Inc., which owns the Harkensack-based Record, the state's second

largest paper, with circulation of 150,000 daily, 207,000 Sunday, bought the

North Jersey Herald & News, circulation 52,000 daily, 40,000 Sunday, plus 11

free weeklies from media magnate William Dean Singleton. The purchase, which

one media analyst valued at $40 million to $50 million, gives Macromedia a

firmer lock on newspaper advertising across several growing counties in

northern Jersey.

At the same time, the sale marks the breakup of North Jersey Newspapers, the

chain where Singleton got his start as a newspaper owner. He took charge of

three New Jersey dailies on July 15, 1977 and followed up by building the 13th

largest newspaper operating company, MediaNews Group.

Singleton acknowledged that the sale marked the end of an era for him. "I cut

my teeth here," Singleton said. "When I took control of this paper I was 25

years old and single." He got rid of the other papers--dailies now closed in

Elizabeth and Union City--in 1992.

Nonetheless, sentimentality didn't trump the bottom line.

"Northern New Jersey has changed dramatically in the last 21 years,"

Singleton said. "We think consolidation of newspapers in New Jersey is

inevitable. We had a very good business here, but it was not one that was going

to grow. We didn't have the opportunity to buy anything else.

"Singleton said that over the past decade he has had occasional conversations

with Malcolm A. Borg, CEO of Macromedia, about joining the Record and the

Herald & News. "I would have loved to have bought the Record," he said,"but

them wasn't the opportunity. They're a family-owned company and they will

remain one for many, many years to come.

The purchase is not Borg's first expansionist foray. From 1973 to 1983, his

company owned Reporter Newspapers, a chain of three weeklies and one biweekly

in southern New Jersey. In 1985, Borg again dabbled in the market, buying the

News Tribune in Woodbridge before folding it and selling its assets two years

ago.

Macromedia's management believes that this merger--linking the Bergen

County's Record powerhouse with the only daily in adjacent Passaic County in a

deal expected to close in early December--will work better.

"Geographically there's a major difference," company spokesperson Linda

Iceland said. "These papers are contiguous to us." Macromedia hopes the two

dailies and 11 weeklies can benefit from joint advertising strategics, although

the company says it has no immediate plans to raise rates.

Clustering-the strategy of a single operator accumulating several papers in

adjacent and overlapping markets-has long been a trend in New Jersey. Earlier

this year, Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper publisher, bought the

Asbury Park Press and Home News & Tribune. This, combined with its other

newspapers in Cherry Hill and Bridgewater, gives Gannett a solid block of

papers in the middle of the state.

Advance Publications, run by the Newhouse family, owns three major urban

papers: in Jersey City, Newark, and Trenton. Neither Gannett nor Advance had

any comment on the Macromedia transaction.

Readers of the Herald & News will see one immediate change. …

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