Lee Enterprises and Liberty Group Publishing to Exchange Newspapers

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In a move to strengthen regional clusters, Lee Enterprises Inc. and Liberty Group Publishing agreed to an exchange of daily newspapers and other properties.

Lee, a Davenport, Iowa group, and premier publisher of daily newspapers in midsize markets, will receive the South Idaho Press, a Burley, Idaho paper with a Monday-Friday and Sunday circulation of 4,000, and the Elko Daily Free Press, an Elko, Nev., paper with a Monday-Saturday circulation of 6,500.

Also included in the exchange, are five weekly newspapers in Idaho: the Minidoka County News in Rupert, the Wood River Journal in Hailey, The Gooding County Leader in Gooding, Northside News in Jerome, and the Lincoln County Journal in Shoshone, and three specialty publications — Super Tuesday in Burley, Wood River Dining Guide in Hailey and Sagebrush Saver in Elko.

Liberty, one of the largest and fastest growing publisher of community newspapers in the United States, will receive The Leader in Corning, New York, and The Journal-Standard in Freeport, Ill., which both have daily and Sunday circulations of 13,500 to 14,000. Liberty will also receive three other publications in Freeport — The Scene, Homefront Real Estate Magazine and Wheels For You.

The transaction, overlooked by the newspaper merger-and-acquisition firm Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, is expected to close in February.

In an announcement made on Jan. 16, Mary Junck, chairman and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises, said the incoming publications would become part of Lee’s regional unit in Twin Falls, Idaho. Junck said the exchange will only have a nominal impact on Lee earnings, since the Corning and Freeport publications represent less than 1.5 percent of Lee’s total revenues and less than 1 percent of operating income. She also said that Lee was excited to expand their position in the growing southern Idaho and northern Nevada markets.

Kenneth L. Serota, chairman and chief executive officer of Liberty Group publishing, said in the announcement that the trade will expand the holdings of Liberty Group Publishing to 28 dailies, weeklies and shopper’s guides in New York, and to 100 dailies, weeklies and shopper’s guides in Illinois.

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