EO Media Group wins bid for 2 Central Oregon newspapers
BEND, Ore. (AP) — EO Media Group, a newspaper publishing company based in Oregon, bought the largest newspaper in Central Oregon and its sister weekly, outbidding a competitive offer at an auction Monday.
The winning $3.65 million bid puts The Bulletin, which had declared bankruptcy, and its sister weekly the Redmond Spokesman, into the hands of a family-owned company that has been publishing newspapers since 1908.
“The vibrant economy of Central Oregon, coupled with a fresh start for The Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman, bodes well for the future of these newspapers,” Heidi Wright, EO Media Group’s chief operating officer, was quoted as saying in the East Oregonian . The newspaper, based in Pendleton, is owned by EO Media Group.
The company outbid Adams Publishing Group at the auction at the offices of Tonkon Torp LLP in Portland. Adams owns more than a hundred small dailies, weeklies and shoppers, including the Herald & News in Klamath Falls and the Lake County Examiner in Lakeview.
Michael Fletcher, attorney for The Bulletin’s parent company, Western Communications, said a previous bidder, Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers Inc., did not participate in the auction, the Bulletin reported .
U.S Bankruptcy Court Judge Trish Brown approved the sale, which is expected to close at the end of August.
With about $30 million in debt, Western Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January. It was the company’s second trip to bankruptcy court since 2012, driven by debt from its headquarters building that was built in 2000. EO Media is not acquiring the real estate, which is being marketed separately. Terms of a lease for space inside the building require the press to be relocated within 90 days of the building’s sale, Wright said.
Steve Forrester, EO Media Group’s president and CEO, said the acquisition of The Bulletin carries emotional and historical meaning.
“Our essential challenge is to bring new life to Bend’s storied daily newspaper,” he said.
Kathryn Brown, vice president of EO Media, said the company will look at how to fold the Central Oregon papers into the organization and soon will reach out to the employees at the Bulletin and Spokesman.
Robert Chandler bought The Bulletin in 1953 from Robert Sawyer with a down payment of $6,000, and was chairman of the company until his death in 1996. He was succeeded by his daughter, Betsy McCool. McCool said she was rooting for EO Media to come out ahead at the auction, noting that she has known the family owners since she was a child.
“They seem like compassionate people that care about Oregon,” she said.
EO Media will be the majority owner of a new holding company, Central Oregon Media Group, for The Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman, Wright said.
A group of Bend investors who contributed capital will have a minority stake. Terms of their agreement with EO Media prevent the local investors from exercising editorial control, Wright said.
Among those who provided financial backing was The Bend Foundation, the East Oregonian reported. The Bend Foundation was established and funded by Brooks Scanlon lumber company, Brooks Resources — a real estate development company, and its shareholders.
Bend Foundation trustee Mike Hollern said “a really important part of the whole American dream to have an unbiased local press.”