'Florida Times-Union' Parent Sells Billboard Unit in Financial Restructuring

By: Mark Fitzgerald Morris Communications Co. LLC on Thursday sold its Fairway Outdoor billboard and outdoor advertising subsidiary in a transaction it said was part of the financial restructuring of its newspaper company.

Morris Publishing Co., the publisher of 13 dailies including The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville and The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, recently reached an agreement with note holders and other creditors to restructure its $400 million in debt.

Under terms of the sale of Fairway, the buyer, ACON, a Washington, D.C.-based private equity investment firm, has acquired a portion of Morris' senior secured loan, Morris and ACON said. They added that ACON's portion of the senior secured loan will remain senior to 7% senior subordinated notes held by a group that negotiated the restructuring deal with Morris.

Before the Fairway deal, ACON had already owned a large outdoor advertising company, Magic Media. With the close of the sale Thursday, the two were combined to form Fairway Magic Outdoor LLC -- which ACON said would be one of the nation's largest privately owned outdoor advertising company, with more than 19,500 billboard and poster displays located in 22 states.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Morris will retain "an important minority stake" in Fairway Magic, the sales announcement said.

"While the sale was consummated in conjunction with the financial restructuring of our newspapers, we are excited about partnering with ACON to more fully exploit the growth opportunities available in the outdoor advertising industry," Morris Chairman William S. Morris III said in a statement.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Morris owned the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, a Media General newspaper.


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