Lee Trades Papers With Liberty Group

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By: E&P Staff

Lee Enterprises Inc. of Davenport, Iowa, and Liberty Group Publishing of Northbrook, Ill., announced Friday an exchange of daily newspapers and other properties, expected to close in February.

Lee will pick up titles in Idaho and Nevada while Liberty will receive properties in New York and Illinois. Both chains said the exchange will enable them to strengthen their regional clusters.

Joining Lee are the South Idaho Press in Burley (circulation: 5,133) and the Elko (Nev.) Daily Free Press (circulation: 7,386), plus five weeklies in Idaho, three specialty publications, and associated Web sites. They will join Lee’s regional business unit based in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Moving to Liberty are The Leader of Corning, N.Y., (circulation: 13,385) and The Journal-Standard of Freeport, Ill., (circulation: 13,693) plus three other titles in Freeport.

“In this exchange of similarly sized properties, Lee is both acquiring and giving up quality publications staffed by talented people,” said Lee Chairman and CEO Mary Junck, in a statement. “However, as we have shown in other Lee markets, strategic groupings of regional publications can benefit readers, advertisers and stockholders alike.”

Junck said the exchange will have little impact on Lee earnings, because the publications leaving her group represent less than 1.5% of Lee’s total revenue and less than 1% of operating income. Lee acquired the Freeport and Corning papers in 2002 as part of the purchase of Howard Publications.

Lee continues to seek opportunities to purchase daily papers with circulation of 30,000 and up in midsize markets, Junck added. Lee owns 38 dailies and nearly 200 weeklies, shoppers and other publications.

Liberty Chairman and CEO Kenneth L. Serota called the Leader and Journal-Standard excellent newspapers that would be good fits for the company’s network of publications in New York and Illinois. Liberty owns over 300 publications, including 65 daily newspapers.

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