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Daily Item of Lynn sold after 137 years of family ownership

The Daily Item of Lynn has been sold to an investment group led by local businessman Ted Grant, a former editor at the newspaper, ending 137 years of ownership by the Hastings family.

Grant said he is likely to take over as publisher when the deal is finalized next month and warned that staff cuts will be necessary to stabilize the struggling business. He plans to meet individually with each of the paper’s three to four dozen current staff members on Thursday.

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“I’m going to be perfectly honest and tell them I don’t know what the new staff will look like — but the staff will certainly be smaller,” said Grant, a former news and sports editor who left the Item in 1992 to launch a marketing firm, Grant Communications Consulting Group. “I want each of them to have an opportunity to be part of the new staff. I owe that to them.”

Grant declined to disclose the purchase price. Current publisher Peter Hastings Gamage confirmed the sale, saying the family was forced to sell to meet the company’s pension obligations.

Gamage represented the fifth generation of the Hastings family to own The Daily Item. His great-great-grandfather, Horace N. Hastings, founded the paper in 1877.

Like many other newspapers of the day, the Item was an evening publication — a format it maintained longer than most. The Item started hitting newsstands in the morning in 2000, the same year it entered a printing partnership with Essex County Newspapers (now North of Boston Media Group), owner of the Salem Evening News.

The arrangement was the first sign of financial trouble for the Item. In recent years circulation fell below 20,000.

Grant said he will seek to continue a legacy of high-quality reporting on the North Shore but will push for changes, too. He cited new digital initiatives and comprehensive coverage of the area’s growing Hispanic population as focal points.

“I think the death of the newspaper industry has been greatly exaggerated,” Grant said. “There is a future, but it’s with a different business model.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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