Buyout planned for Broadcaster and Plain Talk

Buyout planned for Broadcaster and Plain Talk
A management buyout agreement was announced Wednesday by which The Broadcaster and the Plain Talk in Vermillion are being purchased by Yankton Media, Inc., headed by current Yankton Press & Dakotan publisher Gary Wood, from GateHouse Media, Inc., of Fairport, NY.

The purchase agreement also includes the Press & Dakotan, the Missouri Valley Shopper, and the Town and Country Weekly News. Wood also serves as publisher of those three publications.

The ownership changeover takes effect Saturday, March 1.

"It's exciting and scary all at the same time," Wood said Wednesday after announcing the sale to The Broadcaster and Plain Talk staff. "There are a lot of employees and their families that are relying on us to make this work, and we'll work as a team to maintain the continued success of these properties."

Along with Wood, Yankton Media, Inc., is principally owned by newspaper veterans Gary and Sue Stevenson of Sheridan, WY, and Robb and Jen Hicks of Buffalo, WY. Together, the Stevensons and Hickses also own publications in Nebraska, Colorado and Montana.

First Dakota National Bank provided the financing to make this week's deal happen, Wood said.

"I appreciate their willingness to reach out to us and bring ownership of the Press & Dakotan back to Yankton," he said. "First Dakota has proven to be a great business partner in helping to put this deal together, just as we partnered with so many others in the community on the YES! campaign."

Larry Ness, president of First Dakota, was pleased with the sale to a local entity.

"It has been 30 years since the Press & Dakotan has been locally owned. This is great for our community and speaks of the excitement that we can generate in this town with active local businesses," he said.

"This is an excellent acquisition opportunity for Yankton Media," added Stevenson, who is Yankton Media's vice president. "These are strong, community news outlets."

The sale of the Yankton/Vermillion properties comes three months after GateHouse purchased the Yankton and Vermillion publications from Morris Communications of Augusta, GA.

The return to local ownership bucks the prevailing trend in the newspaper industry, which is seeing increasing corporate control.

"This is a wonderful transaction for the community of Yankton, because the newspaper industry has been consolidating nationwide and many community newspapers are going away," said Rob Stephenson, an executive vice president at First Dakota. "An out-of-town owner would very likely have greatly downsized the paper's operation, resulting in the loss of valuable jobs, investment, tax base, and community reporting and flavor. The purchase by this ownership team will provide the community with continued strong local news coverage, as well as securing current and improved employment opportunities for employees of Yankton Media, Inc."

"The community has some great momentum going with a number of recent events, including the YES! campaign," added Denny Weiss, a vice president at First Dakota. "The newspaper was a very important player in that campaign, and the purchase of the newspaper by a community-oriented group only builds on this momentum for Yankton."

The purchase by Yankton Media puts on hold for the time being plans for a new facility, Wood said.

"We're a small business, not corporately owned. We have to re-evaluate what we can do as far as building improvements," he said.

He did say that a more immediate goal is "to improve pre-press and press equipment. That will allow us to improve the quality of our product and the quality of the products we print for our commercial print customers."

Wood added, "Our focus is to continue to improve the quality of life for employees and quality of life in community by providing the best local, in-depth coverage of any news source in the region."

Hicks, who is secretary for Yankton Media, agreed. "We are excited by the opportunity to continue a long legacy of community journalism here. Our readers can expect in-depth, local coverage of the news that affects their lives."

The Press & Dakotan was founded as a weekly in 1861 in the prairie settlement (and newly-minted territorial capital) of Yankton. According to author Bob Karolevitz, the newspaper operated as a weekly until April 1875 when, thanks to the immense popularity of a quickly-produced daily publication issued during the Black Hills gold rush, it switched to a daily format.

The newspaper has undergone several ownership changes and consolidations – not to mention spellings – through the decades. It permanently became the Press & Dakotan in 1907.

The paper was owned locally from its inception until Jan. 1, 1979, when Stauffer Communications of Topeka, KS, purchased the property.

The Stauffer properties were purchased by Morris Communications in 1995.

Morris purchased the Plain Talk, Shopper and The Broadcaster in 1997, forming what was dubbed the Yankton Publishing Group.

GateHouse Media purchased 14 properties, including the Yankton Publishing Group, from Morris last fall.

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