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Bay Area MNG papers, Santa Rosa Press Democrat buyer have a common shareholder

One of the owners of the MediaNews Group’s papers in the Bay Area, billionaire Warren Stephens, is also a partner in the group that has acquired the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and 15 other newspapers owned by The New York Times Co.

Stephens Media Group owns 26.28% of the MediaNews Group papers in the Bay Area, such as the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Marin Independent Journal. Gannett holds a 19.49% stake and MediaNews is the majority partner with 54.23%.

The Press Democrat and the other papers in the Times’ Regional Media Group are being acquired for $143 million in cash by Halifax Media Holdings LLC.

The Press Democrat reported that Halifax’s investment group includes Little Rock, Ark.-based Stephens Capital Partners, headed by Warren Stephens, as well as Jaarss Media and Redding Investments. The portion of the company owned by each investor wasn’t disclosed in the article.

The PD quoted the Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmonds as saying that Stephens is clearly the deep pockets behind the purchase, and noting that Forbes lists Warren Stephens as being worth $2.8 billion.

Edmonds said he wouldn’t be surprised to see management from Stephens Media — which owns 11 daily and 64 weekly newspapers in nine states — brought in to help run Halifax as a stand-alone company or to merge it with Stephens Media.

Other points from the Press Democrat story about the sale:

1. The paper’s existing contract with the Guild expires on Saturday (Dec. 31).

2. Times officials are quoted as saying that the “vast majority” of the paper’s 330 employees will be offered jobs at comparable salary and benefits. Those who will be offered severance packages were to be contacted on Thursday.

3. The CEO of Halifax Media, Michael Redding, did not return a phone call from the author of the story, Press Democrat staff writer Kevin McCallum.

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