SANTA ROSA — Sonoma Media Investments, LLC, owner of the Sonoma Index-Tribune and Sonoma magazine, on Thursday completed its purchase of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Petaluma Argus-Courier and North Bay Business Journal and revealed details about notable local investors and the management team behind a deal in the works since the beginning of this year.
The purchase agreement between Sonoma Media Investments and Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Halifax Media Group was reached just before noon Thursday and includes the publications, their digital media products and services, the Rohnert Park printing plant for the newly added publications and the Index-Tribune, and 7.5 acres of land behind the plant. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Ratifying a new contract with The Newspaper Guild, agreed to unanimously Thursday morning, and securing the printing plant real estate were crucial to getting Comerica Bank to finance the deal, according to Darius Anderson, one of the four lead investors in the media group he formed earlier this year. Halifax was planning to sell the real estate individually and was in advanced talks with another buyer for the West Coast publications that was considering reducing the workforce by 43 percent, he said.
“I want to point out how close it was that the pieces could have been sold off and we would be left with just the brand,” Mr. Anderson said.
The other lead investors are Doug Bosco of Santa Rosa, Bill Hooper of Danville and Steve Falk of San Francisco. Mr. Falk, former publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, is chief executive officer of Sonoma Media and will be stepping down from his role at the helm of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Bosco is general counsel.
Six other investors are high-profile figures both in Sonoma County business and philanthropy:
- Sonoma resident Gary Nelson, founder and retired chairman of the staffing services provider Nelson Family of Companies, will be advising the new venture on employment issues.
Norma J. Person of Santa Rosa is the wife of the late Press Democrat Publisher-Owner Evert B. Person, who sold the newspaper to the New York Times Company in 1985. Mrs. Person spent many years as an educator and is president of the Ernest L. and Ruth W. Finley Foundation.
- “Sandy” Weill of Sonoma, the former Citigroup CEO who together with his wife, Joan, donated $12 million toward the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.
- Jean Schulz of Santa Rosa is chairwoman of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, which manages licensing related to her late husband’s “Peanuts” comic strip, and board president of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.
- Bill Jasper of Sonoma was chief executive officer and president of Dolby Sound from 1983 until he retired in 2009.
- Les Vadasz of Sonoma was a founder and board member of Intel Corp. His wife, Judy, and he are major donors to the Green Music Center through their foundation.
“Newspapers were important to Sparky’s life,” said Jean Schulz at a news conference, using her late husband’s nickname. “Comics were put into newspapers to sell papers.”
The investors will be forming an community advisory board to regularly review media group business performance.
The downtown Santa Rosa building at 427 Mendocino Ave. housing the editorial offices of the Press Democrat and Business Journal wasn’t included in the deal. The building is part of a sale-leaseback contract between Halifax and a property investor, according to Mr. Anderson. The buyer wants to consolidate publication and PD MediaLab offices to the two upper floors and convert the ground floor to retail space.
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