A hedge fund known for cutting editorial jobs at otherwise profitable newspapers has just acquired a Minnesota-based media group and its 11 community papers.
Red Wing Publishing Co., also known as Big Fish Works, has been bought by MediaNews Group, a subsidiary of MNG Enterprises that is owned by the New York-based Alden Global Capital.
Bring Me The News understands that the sale was officially completed on Wednesday, and comes after staff at Red Wing Publishing's various outlets were asked to re-apply for their jobs in late January, with the new owners sending out offer letters shortly thereafter.
The acquisition includes the newspaper operations and websites of 11 community news outlets, including Southwest News Media in the western Twin Cities metro, which operates the Chaska Herald, Lakeshore Weekly News, Chanhassen Villager, Eden Prairie News, Shakopee Valley News, the Prior Lake American and the Savage Pacer.
Also included in the sale is the International Falls Journal, and the two newspapers that fall under the banner of Crow River Media: The Hutchinson Leader and the Litchfield Independent Review.
Alden Global Capital has been the owner of the St. Paul Pioneer Press since 2012, since when it has laid off several dozen reporters amid significant newsroom cuts, despite the newspaper posting double-digit profit margins in recent years.
It's this reputation for editorial cuts that saw it described this week in Vanity Fair as a "vampire that bleeds newspapers dry."
In 2018, a group of Pioneer Press journalists called on Alden Global Capital to either invest in their newspaper, or sell it.
Deena Winter, a former employee of Southwest News Media, wrote a piece about the sale on Wednesday for DFM Workers – a union website for employees of Digital First Media, the trade name for MediaNews Group.
She suggests that some staff have already lost their jobs after being told to re-apply last month, with one anonymous employee saying that when the impending sale was announced on Jan. 23: "We were told that unless MNG chose to hire us back on, our positions would be terminated."
Another employee said "most of us have received offers, but not all," and added that staff were being offered the same salary as they had before the sale, and were given 48 hours to sign.
In a press release announcing the sale, Big Fish CEO Mark Poss said that changing consumer tastes and increasingly sophisticated technology has made it difficult for small independent media groups to survive.
"Instead of stabilizing like transitions in the past, the change in reader habits and advertiser strategies only continues to evolve," he said. "Responding to this constant evolution requires expensive technology, resources and training, making it more difficult for small independents to keep up."
“A result of these changes has been, and continues to be, rapid consolidation. After careful consideration with our board and our family, we have decided that selling our assets to a larger news media company is the best way forward for us and for our staff members.”
MNG is the third largest newspaper media company in the country and we believe they have the resources, strategies and capital to survive and thrive in this ever-evolving business.”
Bring Me The News has reached out to MediaNews Group and Alden Global Capital for comment, and have not yet heard back. This story will be updated should we get a response.