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WEHCO Acquires Missouri Papers

Posted on Friday, March 28, 2008

WEHCO Newspapers, Inc., parent company of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, announced Thursday that it is acquiring three newspapers in Missouri.

Walter Hussman, president of WEHCO Media Inc., parent company of WEHCO Newspapers, said he signed an agreement to purchase the Jefferson City News Tribune, the Fulton Sun and the weekly California Democrat as a package Wednesday evening and then made announcements to the staffs Thursday. All three papers are located in central Missouri in a four-county area.

He declined to disclose the amount because the sellers don’t want to release it. The sale should hopefully be completed on April 30, he said.

“Being in the state capital was a definite plus,” he said, because it provides a solid readership and population. The company also has a new printing press that does a lot of commercial work. The papers share similar values with WEHCO because they’re also family owned, he said. Plus, they’ve also made profit gains, he said, which is unusual at this time.

“A good regional fit for us, a border state, and so there are just a lot of appealing things about it,” he said.

He does not plan to make any immediate changes to the publications, he said.

Betty Weldon, who died in April, was the publisher and owner of the publications. Her three children are selling the family business.

Jane Haslag, advertising director for the News Tribune, said Hussman spoke to the newspaper’s staff Thursday morning and communicated that he thought they would be a good fit with WEHCO.

“He reassured the employees today that the News Tribune is not a broken newspaper,” Haslag said.

For the year ending Sept. 30, the News Tribune had an average daily circulation of 18, 260, with 22, 420 on Sunday, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

“There were a lot of things that make this acquisition a good match,” said News Tribune Managing Editor Richard McGonegal. “I think that the people here felt very comfortable with what he was able to tell us during his address this morning.” He said that no immediate editorial changes were expected.

Paula Earls, editor of the California Democrat, said she did not know of any immediate changes that would be made at the newspaper, which has a weekly circulation of 4,000.

The News Tribune reported that Weldon died after a long illness at age 85. According to the article, her three children are Frank Weldon of Jefferson City, Lenore “Tony” Weldon of New Bloomfield and Sally Weldon Proctor of Bigfork, Mont.

WEHCO also owns the Benton County Daily Record, the Northwest Arkansas Times, the Chattanooga (Tenn. ) Times Free Press, the Texarkana Gazette, The (Hot Springs ) Sentinel-Record, the El Dorado News-Times, the Camden News and the Banner News in Magnolia.

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