A Wellesley businessman and his partners have agreed to purchase the Orange County Register, the nation’s 19th biggest newspaper, and six other Western papers from Freedom Communications Inc.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The sale is slated to close in 30 days.
The buyer, Aaron Kushner, has run an Internet company and a greeting-card business. His 2100 Trust group includes former newspaper executive Chris Harte of the Portland Press Herald and former Time Inc. chief executive Jack Griffin. The group earlier this year tried to buy Maine’s largest newspaper company, including the Portland paper, but talks collapsed with unions and management.
Kushner in the past has expressed interest in buying The Boston Globe from The New York Times Co. but never submitted a formal bid to The Times Co.
Freedom Communications, an Irvine, Calif., media company, has been owned by hedge funds since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2010. Alden Global Capital, Angelo Gordon & Co., and Luxor Capital Group bought Freedom, which had been family-owned for many years.
The current owners have been selling off assets to pay Freedom’s debt. They recently sold newspaper groups in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina for undisclosed sums. Freedom also sold eight TV stations last month to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $385 million. The sale to Kushner and 2100 Trust are Freedom’s remaining media assets.
The Orange County Register has a daily circulation of 161,042 and Sunday circulation of 280,322. Including online readers, its Sunday circulation is 385,283.
“The Freedom newspapers are among the best in the business with top-notch reporters, editors, and business staff,” Kushner said in a statement. “We are honored to get to work with them and help support them. Our plans begin with serving our communities, and we will do everything we can to ensure the staff has all the resources necessary to continue producing great journalism.’’
He also said, “As we see opportunities to buy and support other compelling franchise newspapers, we will actively pursue them.”
The Register’s editor, Ken Brusic, said at a meeting with staff that the sale was a positive outcome, calling the Kushner group “people who want us and are dedicated to the quality of journalism and content and dedicated to the community,” according to an online story by the Register.
The Kushner deal includes four additional California newspapers: Barstow’s Desert Dispatch, the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, the Victorville Daily Press, and the Porterville Recorder. In addition, the sale includes the Gazette in Colorado Springs and the Yuma Sun in Yuma, Ariz.
Mitchell Stern, Freedom’s chief executive, said all current employees will have jobs with the new owners.