MESA – Freedom Communication’s sale of the East Valley Tribune in Mesa and the Daily Sun-News in Sun City to a Colorado-based media company was approved March 9 by a federal bankruptcy court judge in Delaware.
The $2 million deal between Freedom and 1013 Communications Group is expected to close next month. The buyer is a partnership of Boulder, Colo.-based Thirteenth Street Media and Reno, Nev.-based 10K Investments LLC.
Randy Miller, president and owner of Thirteenth Street Media, will serve as publisher and run the daily operations.
Along with the Tribune and News-Sun print and web products, the sale includes weekly newspapers in Ahwatukee, Glendale, Peoria and Surprise; and Arizona Interactive Media Group, which publishes the Clipper direct-mail coupon magazine.
The sale was approved as part of Freedom’s overall plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of March.
“We are very pleased we were able to find a buyer who has extensive experience in the media industry and who shares a strong commitment to serving the needs of local readers and advertisers,” Freedom Chief Executive Officer Burl Osborne said in a statement. “We believe this is the best outcome for our employees, advertisers, readers and other customers.”
Freedom filed for bankruptcy protection in September and announced two months later that it would close the Tribune after nine years of ownership. Weeks later, the company said it received a letter of intent from Miller to buy the newspaper. Miller later expanded his offer to include Freedom’s other Phoenix-area publications.
“It was always my intent to purchase the entire group, so I’m very pleased it finally worked out – after a lot of time and effort,” Miller said in a statement. “They are excellent, community-focused papers which are at the core of our business strategy. And Arizona Interactive Media Group gives us a solid base to grow as the media landscape continues to evolve.”
Freedom will retain ownership of the Tribune building and press in downtown Mesa. Miller will consolidate operations and relocate the Tribune offices, but he did not specify where.
Last year, the paper ceased daily publication and moved to a free-circulation, zoned model serving Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek. The Tribune published four days a week and then reduced publication to three days.
Miller said he plans to return the East Valley Tribune name to the masthead and resume distribution in Tempe and additional neighborhoods in Chandler. The paper will remain free in distribution racks and be delivered to select neighborhoods.
Miller plans to offer jobs to the former Freedom employees this week; they will have until March 14 to accept. Freedom will pay severance to employees not retained by the new owner.
Freedom Communications, based in Irvine, Calif., operates more than 100 daily and weekly newspapers, including The Orange County (Calif.) Register and The Sun in Yuma.
Thirteenth Street Media is also the publisher of two other free-distribution newspapers, the Explorer in suburban Tucson and the Telluride (Colo.) Daily Planet.