The media conglomerate that has its roots in the Libertarian philosophy of founder R.C. Hoiles really seems to be breaking apart. Freedom Communications has announced the sale of four Texas newspapers, including the Brownsville Herald and the Odessa American. On Thursday the company said it was selling four of its Midwest papers to a Philadelphia-based private equity firm. Other papers in Florida and North Carolina are also believed to be on the block. A few months ago, Freedom agreed to sell its eight TV stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $385 million. Some backstory from the WSJ:
Freedom was founded in the 1930s by R.C. Hoiles, a former printer's apprentice who used his media properties to spread his libertarian views. By the time Mr. Hoiles died in 1970, Freedom owned 16 daily newspapers in seven states. Freedom subsequently expanded to include dozens more newspapers and several TV stations. In 2004 divisions within the Hoiles family over what to do with the company led to private-equity firms Blackstone Group LP and Providence Equity Partners acquiring a 40% stake for about $460 million. The deal kept the company under the Hoiles family's control while allowing some family shareholders to cash out. For a while after that deal, the newspapers generated healthy earnings. But the housing slump hit many of Freedom's most important markets early and hard. In recent years, Freedom, like a number of newspaper publishers, has been battered by steep advertising declines. The investments by Blackstone and Providence eventually were written down to zero.
The big question is what happens to the Register. Doug Manchester, owner of the SD Union-Tribune, is interested, but it's unclear where those negotiations stand.