Freedom Communications, Inc., was an American media conglomerate that operated daily and weekly newspapers, websites and mobile applications, as well as Coast Magazine and other specialty publications. Headquartered at 625 N. Grand Avenue in Santa Ana, California, it was owned by a private equity firm, 2100 Trust, established in 2010 by investor Aaron Kushner Freedom's flagship newspaper is the Orange County Register, based in Santa Ana.
On March 21, 2016 a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Freedom Communications and its two major newspapers, the Orange County Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise to Digital First Media (DFM). DFM is the parent of the Los Angeles News Group (LANG), which was renamed the Southern California News Group on the same day, which has eleven daily newspapers in Southern California.
Founder R.C. Hoiles gained a one-third interest in his first newspaper (The Alliance Review in Ohio) sometime in the 1910s. He and his brother Frank bought many more local newspapers over the next several decades. In 1935 he moved his base of operations to Santa Ana, California, and in 1950 he incorporated his syndicate as Freedom Newspapers, Inc. It was renamed Freedom Communications in 1993. Freedom was operated as an entirely family-owned business until 2004, when private-equity firms Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners acquired a 40 percent share in Freedom for about $460 million. As part of this transaction, Freedom had acquired substantial debt.
On September 1, 2009, Freedom Communications went into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The company left bankruptcy on April 30, 2010, under the ownership of investment firms Alden Global Capital, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Luxor Capital Group. Lenders to the company also retained a stake in Freedom.
The company announced on November 2, 2011 that it would sell its entire television division to Sinclair Broadcast Group in a move to eliminate the company's debt. The sale was completed on April 2, 2012.
Freedom began selling the majority of its newspaper portfolio in 2012. Four papers in the Midwest were sold to Ohio Community Media, an affiliate of the private equity firm Versa Capital Management, in May. The Clovis News Journal and other newspapers in New Mexico were sold to Stevenson Newspapers. Freedom papers in Texas were sold to AIM Media Texas. Its Florida and North Carolina papers were sold to Halifax Media Group.
On June 11, 2012, Freedom Communications Holdings, Inc., announced an agreement to be acquired by 2100 Trust, LLC. in a merger with a subsidiary of 2100 Trust. On July 25, 2012, the latter, led by entrepreneur Aaron Kushner, acquired Freedom's dailies, associated non-daily publications and digital properties. The company continued to operate under the name Freedom Communications.
Kushner, who "preached the virtues of local journalism and a print product," bought Freedom in 2012 for $50 million plus assumption of pension liabilities. He increased staff and added new sections at the Orange County Register and began a new daily, the Long Beach Register. In January 2014, however, he announced heavy layoffs in Orange County and at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which he also owned. The Register launched a Los Angeles edition, the Los Angeles Register, on April 16, 2014, but the venture ended five months later. The Long Beach Register became a Sunday-only publication in June 2014, and ceased publication in December 2014.
Freedom closed the sale of The Gazette (Colorado Springs) to Clarity Media, a subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation, on November 30, 2012. In 2013, Freedom Communications sold the Yuma Sun and the Porterville Recorder to Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers and the Appeal-Democrat to Horizon Publications. In 2014, Freedom sold the Daily Press and the Desert Dispatch to New Media Investment Group.
- D.R. Segal (1981–1992)
- James N. Rosse (1992–1999)
- Samuel C. Wolgemuth (1999–2002)
- Alan Bell (2002–2006)
- Scott N. Flanders (2006–2009)
- Burl Osborne (2009–2010)
- Mitchell Stern (2010–2012)
- Aaron Kushner (2012–2015)
- Rich Mirman (2015-2016)
Freedom's newspaper portfolio consists of:
Former television stations
|City of license / Market||Station|| Channel
|Years Owned||Current Ownership Status|
|West Palm Beach, Florida||WPEC 1||12 (13)||1996-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|New Bedford, Massachusetts-Providence, Rhode Island||WLNE-TV||6 (49)||1983-2007||ABC affiliate owned by Citadel Communications|
|Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids, Michigan||WWMT||3 (8)||1998-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Lansing, Michigan||WLAJ||53 (51)||1998-2012|| ABC affiliate owned by Shield Media, LLC |
(operated through LMA by Media General)
|Albany/Schenectady, New York||WRGB||6 (6)||1986-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|WCWN||45 (43)||2006-2012||The CW affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Medford, Oregon||KTVL 2||10 (10)||1981-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Chattanooga, Tennessee||WTVC||9 (9)||1983-2012||ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Beaumont, Texas||KFDM||6 (21)||1983-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
- 1 Freedom's flagship station
- 2 Freedom's first television property
- Magazine website
- Rem Rieder, USA TODAY 8:11 p.m. EDT June 25, 2013 (2013-06-25). "One newspaper cuts to survive; another invests to thrive". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
- "Chapter 11 Petition" (PDF). PacerMonitor. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
- Talking New Media blog: "Bankruptcy judge approves Digital First Media purchase of Freedom Communications assets", by D.B. Hebbard21 March 2016.
- LA Observed blog: "Memo: LA News Group now So Cal News Group", by Kevin Roderick, 21 March 2016.
- Freedom Name Change
- Peter Lattman; Russell Adams (August 31, 2009). "Paper Owner Freedom Plans to File For Chapter 11". Wall Street Journal.
- de la Merced, Michael (2009-09-01). "Freedom Communications Files for Bankruptcy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-02.
- Milbourn, Mary Ann (November 2, 2011). "O.C. Register owner sells TV stations". Orange County Register. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
- Freedom Communications sells 4 Midwest papers
- OCM purchases the Lima News
- Freedom Communications Announces Sale Of Clovis, NM, News Journal to Clovis Media Inc.
- AIM Media Texas, LLC acquires Texas newspapers
- Freedom announces sale of Florida, N.C. properties to Halifax Media Group
- "2100 Trust buys Daily Press parent company". Victorville Daily Press. July 25, 2012. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- Ken Bensinger, "Dozens Laid Off at Freedom Newspapers," Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2014, pages B-1 and B-4
- Khouri, Andrew (September 23, 2014). "Freedom Newspapers Ceases Publication of L.A. Register". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 23, 2014.
- Lopez, Ricardo (2014-06-03). "O.C. Register owner to cut staff, merge Long Beach and L.A. newspapers". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Pfeifer, Stuart; Khouri, Andrew (December 28, 2014). "Long Beach Register stops publishing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
- Avery, Greg (November 30, 2012). "Anschutz buys Colorado Springs Gazette". Denver Business Journal. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- Yuma Sun under new ownership
- Sales of four north-valley newspapers announced
- Register owner sells Victorville, Barstow newspapers
- Mary Ann Milbourn, "Register owner expands in L.A.", Orange County Register, January 21, 2014.
- OC Register parent to expand into Palm Springs
- Mediha deMartino, "Freedom to Consolidate Spanish-Language Weeklies", Orange County Business Journal, March 7, 2014
- Media General Puts 31 Papers, Including 13 in County, Up for Sale
- Owner of Orange County Register Buys 30 Weeklies
- Era Ending at Anaheim Bulletin
- OC Register Ramps Up Newport Beach, Costa Mesa Coverage
- DiMartino, Mediha (2014-05-30). "Sources Say Freedom to Furlough Staff, Trim Long Beach to Weekly Schedule". Orange County Business Journal. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Freedom Newspapers Buys Fullerton Weekly
- Register Parent Buys 3 Weekly Newspapers
- Irvine World News officially becomes daily newspaper
- La Habra, Brea Papers Purchased
- 2 Dailies Owned by Freedom Newspapers to Run Weekly
- Times Mirror Unit Purchases Orange Paper
- Freedom Newspapers Buys San Clemente Daily