Ogden out as Gazette-Mail bidder, leaving Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ogden Newspapers is out as a bidder for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, leaving Huntington’s Herald-Dispatch as the apparent new owner of West Virginia’s Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper.

Doug Reynolds, the owner of the Herald-Dispatch, confirmed the news this morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

The purchase firmed up after H-D Media remained the only bidder during what had been expected to be an auction.

MORE: Read the Notice of Successful Bidder.

Doug Reynolds

Earlier, appearing on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Reynolds acknowledged the likelihood of a successful bid but didn’t rule out yet another party emerging. The deal still has to be finalized in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“We’d be the lead bidder. If that all occurs we should end up as the final bidder. We’re really excited,” Reynolds said.

“It’s a great asset in terms of circulation and advertising. Great writers. Great reputation. Something we felt like was an incredible value.”

Reynolds said H-D Media’s bid was $11.5 million. He said the bid effort includes H-D Media and others.

“We’re going to have some investors. I think you’ll be real impressed when you hear the people involved in this,” Reynolds said. “This will be a new media venture that will be around a long time.”

The Gazette-Mail reported that Brian Jarvis, owner of the company that publishes the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram, and West Virginia businessman Marty Becker were introduced at the auction as among the investors.

“Doug and I believe in West Virginia and the importance of newspapers in building communities and releasing their full potential,” Jarvis said in a story on his own company’s website.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to grow the Gazette-Mail and our new venture to expand the good news about West Virginia’s resurgence.”

Reynolds is a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and was the Democratic candidate for Attorney General in 2016

An auction for ownership of the newspaper was set for noon today in a downtown Charleston law office.

Ogden, which owns newspapers in several West Virginia cities, had been considered the stalking horse, having produced the highest bid — $10.911 million in the run up to the bankruptcy process.

But H-D Media emerged in recent days as having a competitive bid of its own. It had to match the Ogden bid, plus another $500,000, most of which represented a breakup fee.

It became clear to the involved parties on Wednesday evening that Ogden was no longer a contender.

Brian Audette is the Chicago-based lawyer handling the sale for Charleston Newspapers.

“Technically that’s correct,” Audette said in a brief telephone call this morning. “They’ve chosen not to increase their offer and participate in the auction.”

Ogden already has a strong West Virginia presence with newspapers in Wheeling, Weirton, Parkersburg, Martinsburg and Elkins.

The newspaper company just this week finalized purchases of The Winchester Star in Virginia and the Daily News-Record of Harrisonburg, Va., along with some other smaller newspapers in that region.

Ogden owns 42 other daily newspapers across 16 states.

Ogden was considered the leading bidder for the Gazette-Mail, and executives had visited the newspaper to become acquainted with the current leadership team.

It became clear in January that the Gazette-Mail was headed for bankruptcy.

The newspaper company reported more than $31 million in liabilities, according to documents filed in bankruptcy court.

About half of that, $15.6 million, represented an outstanding United Bank loan balance, plus interest and fees, from 2006.

Much of the debt was from the Charleston Gazette’s purchase of the Charleston Daily Mail.

The two newsrooms continued to operate independently, as a result of antitrust oversight by the federal government, until 2015 when the newsrooms merged. The owners described a more efficient operation as one of the reasons.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for investigative reporting by Eric Eyre focusing on how a wave of pharmaceuticals contributed to West Virginia’s opioid crisis. The Daily Mail, which was owned for many years by the Clay family, won a Pulitzer for commentary written by Jack Maurice in 1975.

The Gazette and then the Gazette-Mail have been closely-held by the Chilton family.

The Chiltons first acquired formal interest in the paper about 1912, and the family has continued to hold the majority interest. Trip Shumate is married to Susan Chilton Shumate, the current publisher. Her mother, Elizabeth Chilton, is president of the Daily Gazette Company.

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