Local media group agrees to buy Press Democrat, Business Journal, Argus-Courier

Florida-based Halifax Media Group has agreed to sell the Press Democrat, North Bay Business Journal and Petaluma Argus-Courier to a group of local investors led by Sonoma Media Investments, LLC, which purchased the Sonoma Index-Tribune earlier this year.

If the sale is completed, it would return the Press Democrat to local ownership for the first time in nearly 30 years. The newspaper was operated by Santa Rosa's Finley family until its purchase in the mid-1980s by the New York Times Company. The Times sold the paper, along with the Business Journal, Argus-Courier and 14 other publications, to Daytona Beach-based Halifax earlier this year for $143 million.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The purchase is being led by Sonoma Media Investments managing partner Darius Anderson, a resident of Sonoma and one of California's leading political lobbyists. He is the owner and founder of Platinum Advisors, LLC, one of California's leading government-relations firms representing Fortune 500 companies, California public agencies and a variety of business and nonprofit interests.

Other partners include former Congressman Douglas Bosco of Santa Rosa, Bill Hooper and Steve Falk, former publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle and currently the chief executive officer and president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

"The Press Democrat, the Argus-Courier and the Business Journal are strong and historic local media brands, and we believe the community will benefit from local ownership," said Mr. Falk, chief executive officer and spokesman for Sonoma Media Investments.

"Sonoma Media is funded by investors who live in the community and care about their local newspaper," said Halifax CEO Michael Redding. The Press Democrat, Journal and Agrus were the only California media owned by Halifax.

Sonoma Media Investments purchased the Sonoma Index-Tribune and Sonoma Magazine in April of this year.

"We view local ownership as a means to ensure professional independence for the news and editorial staffs," Mr. Falk said. "We know that a newspaper's success is built on its journalistic reputation and integrity. We're not going to do anything that would damage that. These publications have a long reputation of quality journalism and a dedicated staff of employees. We will continue to serve the local community, provide jobs for hundreds of Sonoma residents and expand the print and online products for readers."

The New York Times Company acquired North Bay Business Journal in January 2005.

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