VILLAGE VOICE SOLD

By: Lucia Moses

Private Equity Firm Snaps Up Weekly Alternatives





New York’s Village Voice, the original alternative weekly, and its six sister alternatives will be sold to a private equity firm, it was announced Jan. 4.



Weiss, Peck & Greer signed a definitive agreement to buy the assets of Stern Publishing Co., which pet food king Leonard Stern put up for sale in September.



The group will be renamed Village Voice Media. Its president, David Schneiderman, will become CEO with responsibility for the group and get a stake in the group. Donald Forst will stay on as editor-in-chief.



The Stern papers, industry leaders popular with the 18- to 34-year-old set that advertisers love, drew more than 10 would-be buyers ranging from print publishers to online companies to private equity firms. About eight companies made final bids.



Financial terms of the deal, expected to close within 30 days, were not released. But when the group was put up for sale, observers speculated it could go for at least $150 million, or twice annual revenues.



Bidders were attracted by the alternative weekly field that the group belongs to, a relatively fast-growing part of the newspaper industry, said Kevin Lavalla, managing director for Veronis, Suhler & Associates Inc., the investment bank that brokered the deal.



Weiss, Peck & Greer, with offices in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, adds to its growing platform of newspaper holdings with the Stern group acquisition. The firm, owned by the Dutch company Robeco Groep, already owns Lionheart Newspapers, a group of about 68 community and shopper papers in the South and Midwest with a total circulation of about 900,000.



The Weiss group also owns part of the weekly alternative Nashville Scene in Tennessee, which will become part of Village Voice Media.



The Stern group, in addition to the Voice and its Long Island, N.Y., version, includes weeklies in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle, and Orange County, Calif.



The weekly group has a combined distribution of more than 890,000 and employs more than 500 people.



It started with the 44-year-old Voice, which Stern bought from Rupert Murdoch 14 years ago for $55 million. He decided to sell the group because his children didn’t want to take over.





Lucia Moses ([email protected]) is an associate editor for Editor & Publisher magazine.

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