Eagle Newspaper Group Sells Off Vermont Publications
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — New England Newspapers is selling off its Vermont publications and a regional lifestyle publication to a Vermont company lead by entrepreneur Paul Belogour.
The sale consists of dailies Brattleboro Reformer and Bennington Banner, the weekly Manchester Journal and the 3-year-old award-winning UpCountry, a bi-monthly magazine. Both the Banner and Reformer date back more than a century.
The terms of the sale were not disclosed other than that the transfer will take effect on May 14 and that The Berkshire Eagle will not only continue to print the publications for at least five years, it will also continue to provide pagination, ad development and customer service for classifieds and circulation.
The papers will be operated by Belogour's newly established Vermont News and Media LLC and all current employees of the Vermont papers will retain their positions.
The sale leaves The Eagle as the lone publication of New England Newspapers Inc., which once also included the North Adams Transcript and weekly Advocate. Those publications folded in 2014.
The Vermont and Massachusetts papers were bought by MediaNews Group in the 1990s; The Advocate was acquired from Boxcar Media, iBerkshires' parent company, in 2005.
The Eagle was founded in the 1890s, although its roots in the county date back another hundred years. It was owned by the Miller family for most of its existence until being sold to Denver-based Media News Group, which was later absorbed into Digital First Media. Parent company Alden Global Capital had attempted to sell off its entire national holdings wholesale but the prospective deal fell through.
The regional papers were purchased by a local investment group
, Birdland Acquisition LLC, in 2016. Headed by Judge Fredric Rutberg, the group's goal was to secure the future of local news, particularly The Eagle.
In a statement in the group's newsletter, Rutberg said the sale was not for financial reasons but that it would put The Eagle in a stronger financial position, according to Vermont Business Magazine.
"We have strong ties to each other, and I hope that the affection and commitment which are at the heart of these ties continues unabated through and after the closing of this sale," he said. "Both NENI and Vermont News and Media will do better and be stronger if their counterpart enjoys similar success."
Rutberg said, "the sale will allow ownership and management to concentrate our efforts on building The Eagle into the finest community news organization in America." This includes the new initiative of "Being Digital" to grow new digital products as well as the print publication.
Belogour, a financier who developed an online platform, Unitrader, to service international brokers, has invested heavily in southeastern Vermont, including a Viking Village in his adopted hometown of Guilford, a brewery, and the Vermont Innovation Box, a shared workspace in Brattleboro to support entrepreneurs.
He told the Reformer on Tuesday
that he had approached NENI's owners several months ago about acquiring the paper and that he was "committed to journalistic independence for the papers' newsrooms and to sharing the wealth if the venture makes money."
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