By: Mark Fitzgerald
$275 million deal unites closely held companies
with media holdings in the South and Midwest sp.
Morris Communications increases its newspaper circulation by more than half and expands its reach from the South to the Midwest and Plains states with its announced purchase of Stauffer Communications.
In buying Stauffer, Morris is gobbling up a chain very much like itself: owned by a sometimes restive family with an eclectic collection of newspapers, shoppers, broadcast properties and a computer division.
Morris and Stauffer announced jointly that Augusta, Ga.-based Morris will acquire Stauffer, headquartered in Topeka, Kan., for $275 million in cash.
Stauffer owns 20 daily newspapers, including the flagship 63,500-circulation Topeka Capital-Journal, in 12 states. It has eight weeklies and shoppers in Florida, as well as the nationally-circulated newspapers Grit and Capper’s.
Stauffer’s broadcast properties include seven television stations in six Western states, four radio stations and several radio networks, including the one that broadcasts Kansas City Royals baseball games over 110 radio stations nationwide.
Stauffer Media Systems and a retail computer store, the Computer Patch, comprise its computer division.
Morris owns 12 daily newspapers, most of which, including the 74,000-circulation flagship Augusta Chronicle, are in Georgia, Florida and Texas. However, Morris owns two Alaskan dailies: the Juneau Empire and the Kenai Peninsula Clarion. In addition, Morris now owns six community papers in the South and Alaska and a variety of magazines, including city magazines in Athens, Augusta and Savannah, Ga., and an outdoor advertising company.
With the sale, Morris’s combined daily circulation will leap to 770,000, from 500,000 now.
Like Stauffer, Morris has been a developer of electronic newspaper technology. Its Compudat unit is known for products such as the TECS/II by Morris front-end system.
Also like Stauffer, Morris has had to deal with a family dispute over the business.
In Morris’ case, the dispute was settled when chairman and chief executive officer William S. “Billy” Morris III bought the stakes of his mother, brother and sister after the family members had objected to Billy buying Morris Communications stock from non-family shareholders.
Stauffer’s family dispute ultimately impelled the sale of the company.
“We reached the decision to sell reluctantly,” chairman John H. Stauffer said in a statement. “But because of the diverse interests of the family, we mutually agreed to this course of action.
“Some third-generation members will remain with the new owners, and others will pursue careers in other phases of journalism or in new interest paths,” he added.
Stauffer Communications was one of several family-owned newspaper companies whose thinly traded stock was bid up during the 1980s media buying fever, a time in which Stauffer share prices soared from about $50 a share to $175.
Family control was maintained, however, by reaching a restrictive agreement with non-family shareholders and by adding some outsiders to the ranks of top management, notably president and CEO Frank H. Shepherd nE&P
?( William S. “Billy” Morris III, who in buying Stauffer is gobbling up a chain very much like his own: owned by a sometimes restive family with an eclectic collection of newspaper, shoppers, broadcast properties and a computer division.) [Photo & Caption]
?( John H. Stauffer is selling a company whose stock soared in the 1980s to $175, from $50 a share.) [Photo & Caption]