Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nashville-based media company SouthComm acquires Creative Loafing Atlanta and Washington City Paper

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 3:15 PM

We welcome our Nashville-based overlords!
  • We welcome our Nashville-based overlords!

Creative Loafing Atlanta has been purchased by SouthComm Inc., a Nashville-based media company. The sale also includes CL's sister publication Washington City Paper in D.C. (Here's WCP's write-up of the sale.) Once the transition to new ownership is complete, Creative Loafing Inc. will no longer exist as a company.

SouthComm, which now publishes eight alt-weeklies and more than 20 niche publications total, bought the paper for an undisclosed sum from Atalaya Capital Management. The New York-based hedge fund took control of the company in August 2009 after Ben Eason, the former owners and son of CL's founders, lost the paper during bankruptcy proceedings.

In a press release - as well as a lunch conversation that I'm not saying happened last week but probably did - SouthComm CEO Chris Ferrell said he expected no immediate editorial changes at the papers. Ferrell said he will examine each market to decide whether to introduce new print and digital products to complement the publications. Ferrell, a former Nashville city councilman who formed the company in 2007, said that although Atlanta and D.C. represent larger markets than SouthComm has previously served, the company's business principles still apply.

"In cities across the Southeast and Midwest we are developing a model that fills the needs of both readers and advertisers by building around our weeklies a suite of niche publications and products," Ferrell said in the statement. "We believe relationships with readers and advertisers matter and we will try to uphold and build on the relationships these two papers have established over the years in Atlanta and D.C."

SouthComm owns weeklies in markets such as Nashville (its flagship), Cincinnati, and Louisville. Last year it bought two former Creative Loafing papers in Charlotte and Tampa.

Creative Loafing began in 1972 as a pamphlet printed in the basement of a Morningside home by Debbie Eason and, over the course of several decades, became the country's second-largest chain of alt-weekly newspapers. (That title belongs to new owners SouthComm.)

In July 2007, then-owner Ben Eason borrowed $30 million to purchase the Chicago Reader, Washington City Paper, as well as the Straight Dope syndicated column and its message board, in hopes of expanding his media company. But Eason couldn't keep up with debt payments and, just over one year later, CL Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

After a long legal fight, the creditor, Atalaya gained control of the company. Earlier this year, budget cuts were ordered at each paper, which resulted in staff reductions in each market. Recently, the Chicago Reader was purchased by Sun-Times Media LLC, joining the list of former CL titles now under new ownership. Atlanta and Washington City Paper remained.

Read this press release here.

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