UPDATE>>Multiple sources have confirmed to HottyToddy.com that the expected sale of the Oxford Eagle to the Boone Newspapers Group, headquartered in Northport, Ala., will likely take place in the next four to six weeks.
HottyToddy.com has also learned that a request to reserve the name Oxford Newsmedia LLC was delivered by FedEx to the state Secretary of State’s office March 11, and filed March 12, by attorneys representing Boone Newspapers Group. The request was submitted by Donna Benefield, senior paralegal with the firm of Tanner & Guinn, Attorneys at Law, based in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the home of Boone Newspapers Group’s chairman of the board, James B. Boone Jr.
Copied on the secretary of state request were Boone, Todd H. Carpenter of Natchez, Miss., president and chief operating officer, and Steven A. Shelton, president of Way, Ray, Shelton & Co.. The company is a Tuscaloosa-based accounting firm that began representing the Boone Group in 1981, and now handles more than 100 newspaper entities across the nation. Also copied was Kim D. Ingram, the Boone Group’s lead attorney with Tanner & Guinn, whose biography describes her practice as focusing “… primarily in the newspaper and print industry in the areas of corporate, general business, mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and workouts.”
HottyToddy.com attempted to contact executives with the Boone Newspapers Group this week, but calls were not returned.
HottyToddy.com also contacted Tim Phillips, a member of the ownership families, with Bob Vasilyev. Phillips did not return a request for an interview but has previously told HottyToddy.com, “I won’t comment on that matter.” Vasilyev also refused to comment previously.
A source told HottyToddy.com on Jan. 20 that discussions were underway between the Eagle and three suitors — Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo, Emmerich Newspapers of Jackson and Boone Newspapers, Inc. of Northport, Ala. The source asked not to be named. The Boone Group appears to have won out in that competition. To access our initial story, click on https://hottytoddy.com/2014/01/25/oxford-eagle-may-be-up-for-sale/
Most recently, Boone Newspapers expanded its Mississippi holdings with the purchase of the Brookhaven, Miss., Daily Leader and the Vicksburg, Miss., Post.
The Eagle was established in 1865 and has been locally owned since 1961. The current owners are the Phillips and Vasilyev families.
Boone Group Chairman James. B. Boone Jr. previously told HottyToddy.com during a telephone interview, “I can’t comment and I don’t know a lot about it.” The Tuscaloosa-based Boone then commented that Oxford is a wonderful town in which to live.
Boone would not comment on any possible connection between Oxford and Tuscaloosa as SEC growth spots. Tuscaloosa is Boone’s home and the city where his family launched its newspaper empire.
Todd Carpenter, COO of Boone Newspapers, based in Natchez, Miss., has not returned requests for comment on the potential sale.
The Boone Group is known to have been on a buying expedition throughout the region as consolidation occurs amid a generally troubled newspaper industry.
Joe Lee, publisher of the Grenada, Miss. Star, said he had heard the industry rumors about the proposed sale of the Eagle and added the transaction, if true, “makes a lot of sense given the state of the newspaper industry in the area.”
Boone also owns newspapers in Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. Another source told HottyToddy.com that the company is known for quickly streamlining operations after purchasing a newspaper and cutting costs drastically.
The Oxford Eagle’s history dates to the last year of the Civil War. The Oxford Falcon, early forerunner of the Eagle, was established by Samuel More Thompson in 1865 with the motto “Truth is a weapon with which we fight.”
In 1961 the Eagle was purchased by Jesse Phillips, Nina Goolsby and Walter S. Featherston. Phillips, who earned a degree in journalism at Ole Miss, was the linotype operator, Goolsby was the bookkeeper and Featherston was the shop foreman.
Later, Phillips and his wife, Jeanette, and Goolsby and her husband, J.C., bought out the Featherston family and Phillips became publisher while Goolsby became a renowned advertising manager, as the weekly newspaper converted to daily status. The Eagle earned many awards for journalism excellence in competitions sponsored by the Mississippi Press Association.
Current owners are Phillips and Goolsby heirs.
Large metropolitan newspapers have suffered severe losses, many even closing their doors, because of the digital age and shift in readership and marketing patterns. But, according to Dr. Will Norton, dean of the Meek School of Journalism & New Media and himself a partner in a small newspaper company, “Many regional and smaller newspapers have weathered the change but also have experienced somewhat stagnant revenues, many being purchased by chains.
“Under local ownership The Oxford Eagle has made an enormous contribution to this region and to community journalism but the trend is consolidation and often that brings in outside ownership,” Norton added. “I would expect many newspaper corporations will be interested in Oxford.”
Dr. Ed Meek, former assistant vice chancellor for Public Relations and Marketing at Ole Miss, long-time friend of the ownership group and publisher of HottyToddy.com, said, “The enormous contributions made by these families to our community cannot be measured, but to a great extent today’s city of Oxford, treasured by so many and recognized for excellence nationally, is the result of local ownership and a dedicated focus on service. The Eagle has been a steadfast supporter of the growth of Ole Miss and Oxford in all of the positive trends that have shaped the community.”
Andy Knef is the editor of HottyToddy.com. Andy can be reached at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com.