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Sandton assumes assets of FLS

FROM THE OWNERS: We want to build on FLS legacy

Sandton Capital Partners closed on its $30.2 million purchase of The Free Lance–Star Publishing Co. Thursday and installed veteran newspaperman Gene M. Carr as interim publisher and chief executive officer.

The sale ended the Rowe family’s 130-year tenure as owners of the media company. But Sandton said it would continue “business as usual” in operating the newspaper, radio stations, websites and commercial printing plant.

“We are excited to be part of the everyday life of these vibrant communities and we will continue to strive to be the best source for local news,” Tom Wood, a founding partner of Sandton, said in a prepared statement. “We believe that there is a bright future in community newspapers and the hyper-local digital approach to delivering news and information.”

Sandton purchased a loan from BB&T last summer that had been made to the FLS in 2007 to build Print Innovators, a commercial printing plant on Belman Road in Fredericksburg. The outstanding balance was about $38 million.

The FLS then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Sandton was the winning bidder in a May 15 auction. The firm was allowed to submit a credit bid of $13.9 million and added $16.3 million in cash to top other bidders.

As part of the purchase agreement, Sandton offered employment to all current FLS employees last week. The FLS’ publications, websites, radio stations and commercial printing plant will continue to operate without interruption.

To lead the transition, Sandton announced the hiring of Carr, who had been involved with the FLS as an adviser and consultant last year.

Carr has more than 30 years of media experience and has served as CEO of several groups. He spent nine years with ACN, a media conglomerate with more than 100 titles operating in five states, including Virginia.

Most recently, Carr has been a consultant specializing in community media businesses. He has served as the interim southwest region vice president of Freedom Communications and publisher of the McAllen Monitor and Colorado Springs Gazette.

He was also recently chairman of the board of the Local Media Foundation and is a current board member.

“Gene brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and new ideas as we embark upon the next chapter of growth in these vital media businesses,” said Robert Orr, managing director of Sandton. “The Free Lance–Star …is very fortunate to have his leadership going forward.”

Carr said the job is “like a homecoming for me,” noting that he and his family lived in Leesburg for five years and his daughter was born in Virginia.

“I am excited to work along with a great staff of dedicated professionals and to help lead the team in its future growth,” Carr said. “The Free Lance–Star serves great communities that will continue to experience significant growth and we are committed to being the best local media properties in delivering top quality journalism and news in the marketplace.

“I am honored to serve this great company with a long and proud history and anxious to meet community leaders, elected officials and our loyal readers and advertisers.”

Former Publisher Nick Cadwallender and former Associate Publisher Florence Barnick, members of the Rowe family, were offered jobs with the new company but did not stay. Cadwallender said he could not work for the new owners because of litigation involving other issues.

“I’m sure our hardworking and dedicated employees will continue to provide a quality product to the community as they have for many years,” he said after a hearing in bankruptcy court Thursday.

Wood, in his statement, also praised the work of employees during the transition process and said Sandton is excited about The Free Lance–Star’s future.

“We look forward to continuing to provide our readers and advertisers with outstanding service,” he said.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com


RELATED PRESS RELEASE

Sandton Capital Partners, LP completes purchase of Free Lance-Star’s assets

Gene M. Carr named as interim publisher and CEO

Fredericksburg, Virginia – June 19, 2014 – Sandton Capital Partners, LP is pleased to announce that today its affiliate has closed the purchase of the newspaper, radio, printing, and other businesses of The Free Lance-Star Co. of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The businesses will continue to trade under the name of The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, VA.

The closing of this transaction follows a Bankruptcy Court approved sale following the bankruptcy filing of the old Free Lance-Star on January 23, 2014.

The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, VA, under its new ownership, does not anticipate any material change to the day-to-day operating activity. The company has offered employment to all of the employees of the predecessor company at their same wages and similar benefit programs. The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, VA’s, publications, web sites, radio stations, and commercial printing solutions will continue to serve their local communities, readers, listeners, advertisers, and print customers without interruption.

Tom Wood, a founding partner of Sandton Capital Partners, LP states, “We are excited to be part of the everyday life of these vibrant communities and we will continue to strive to be the best source for local news. We believe that there is a bright future in community newspapers and the hyper-local digital approach to delivering news and information in which The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, VA operates.” In addition, Tom Wood comments, “It is a challenging and exciting time period as the region continues to experience rapid growth in one of the most dynamic regions in the US. The commitment and professionalism of our employees has been incredible during the transition process and has aided us in completing this transaction in a timely and efficient manner. We look forward to continuing to provide our readers and advertisers with outstanding service.”

As part of the transition, Sandton Capital Partners, LP is also pleased to announce that industry veteran Gene M. Carr has been hired as the interim CEO and Publisher of The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, VA. Carr is very familiar with The Free Lance-Star and the communities it serves; he has previously been an advisor and consultant to the company. Gene Carr has over 30 years of media experience; he has served as CEO of several groups including 9 years as CEO of ACN, a group of dailies, weeklies, magazines, and print facilities with over 100 titles operating in five states including Northern Virginia. Most recently, Carr has operated a consulting practice specializing in community media businesses. He has had numerous engagements in his practice, including representing owners of traditional and digital media properties, and serving as interim Southwest Region Vice President of Freedom Communications and Publisher of the McAllen Monitor and Colorado Springs Gazette.

He is the immediate past Chairman of the Board of the Local Media Foundation and a current Board Member.

Robert Orr, a Managing Director of Sandton Capital Partners, LP, states, “Gene brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and new ideas as we embark upon the next chapter of growth in these vital media businesses. Gene has been working with and advising us on The Free Lance-Star for many months now. The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, VA is very fortunate to have his leadership going forward.”

Gene Carr comments, “I am excited to work along with a great staff of dedicated professionals and to help lead the team in its future growth. It is like a homecoming for me and my family as we lived in Leesburg for five years; our daughter Lauren Carr was born a Virginian, and I served as CEO of a large newspaper group that owned several newspapers in Northern Virginia. The Free Lance-Star serves great communities that will continue to experience significant growth and we are committed to being the best local media properties in delivering top quality journalism and news in the marketplace. I am honored to serve this great company with a long and proud history and anxious to meet community leaders, elected officials and our loyal readers and advertisers.”

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