LIMA — The Lima News is part of four community news groups that combined Tuesday to form a new media company, Civitas Media.
Civitas is the Latin term for “community” or “citizen,” which is appropriate for the goals of the new company, said CEO Michael Bush.
Bush is the former CEO of Heartland Publications, which is one of the four companies to merge. The others were Freedom Central, Impressions Media and Ohio Community Media, of which The Lima News belonged.
Versa Capital Management, an equity investment firm in Philadelphia, will continue to own the company.
“We have assembled an excellent group of community news publishers over the past 15 months and combining them together under the Civitas umbrella is a logical and value-enhancing result,” said Versa’s CEO Gregory L. Segall.
James Shine, publisher of The Lima News, sees the newspaper as being an important player in the new group. The chain brings 35 daily and 63 weekly newspapers under one umbrella. The Lima News, with a daily readership of just under 90,000 and 135 employees, is among the group’s largest newspapers along with the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and the Alton (Illinois) Telegraph.
“I am encouraged that Versa Capital Management has decided to grow and consolidate their newspaper portfolio,” Shine said. “As a member of an even larger newspaper organization, The Lima News will be well positioned to continue serving the readers and businesses of west central Ohio as we have for the past 128 years.”
Civitas employs 1,650 people at 99 locations across 12 states in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and South. It will serve its communities through its dedication to the delivery of local information, including news and advertising solutions, across a variety of platforms, Bush said.
The papers have a combined average weekly circulation of 1.6 million.
Segall said Versa is a strong believer in community newspapers.
“Community-based media has remained profitable and largely avoided the level of financial pressure experienced by large daily metros in recent years,” Segall pointed out. “They are the principal source of information and news content as well as the primary advertising vehicles for their communities, whether in print or online, and we see a more stable and resilient future for this sector.”
Civitas also serves its communities with numerous free advertisement supported publications and a growing online presence.
In addition, Civitas publishes specialty products such as local community directories, wine magazines, regional agricultural publications, realty publications, local entertainment guides and online magazines and SEO solutions.
“I am very excited to be working with Versa Capital, which has assembled a valuable collection of community media assets and has a reputation for supporting its companies both financially and operationally,” Bush said. The media division’s new leader added, “There are many opportunities for serving the local communities as we realize synergies from our combined strength. At Heartland we successfully implemented similar programs, and I look forward to working with the entire Civitas organization to explore best-in-class practices that can be utilized across many platforms.”
He praised the quality of newspapers in the Civitas group.
“We have many excellent editorial and advertising professionals with valuable, local community ties. Our emphasis always be on the communities we serve,” said Bush.
Scott Champion will be the chief operating officer of Civitas. He was the former CEO of Ohio Community Media.
The capitalization and working capital requirements of the business are supported by a new $62.5 million multi-bank senior term loan and revolving credit facility led by RBS Citizens, N.A.
Bush said, “Civitas has a promising future as a media company, and is well positioned to further benefit from the eventual recovery of U.S. economic activity.”
Operational improvements are anticipated in the near-term, said Segall. He said there would be little change in each newspaper’s editorial policies.
“We plan to leave day-to-day control of editorial content in the hands of the people who know the local markets best.”