News Corp. seeks buyer for local newspaper group

Brooklyn Rail. (via Gavin St. Ours)
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News Corp. is looking for a buyer for its Brooklyn-based local newspaper operation.

Capital has learned that the global publishing conglomerate, which also owns The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, has issued a prospectus to potential buyers of its Community Newspaper Group, a stable that includes titles like The Brooklyn Paper, the Brooklyn Courier, and the Times Ledger.

The decision to sell CNG indicates that News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants are continuing to shed assets while refocusing on core properties.

The move follows the company's September sale of its Dow Jones Local Media Group, which included 33 local papers in various U.S. markets. And it shows News Corp. slimming down as a publishing-focused outfit following the corporate split this summer that spun off lucrative television and film brands like Fox News and 20th Century Fox into a separate public company.

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With added pressure to appease shareholders wary of the hostile climate facing newspapers, News Corp. has been taking steps to improve the fortunes of its print properties. In addition to the sale of the Dow Jones Local Media Group, there was a rare round of cuts at the Post back in June, and News Corp. has been struggling to get its troubled Australian papers back on track as well.

In 2006, the company bought two newspaper chains in Queens and Brooklyn, giving it a foothold in the outer boroughs, where the Daily News has historically trumped News Corp's Post in terms of penetration. In 2010, it added to that portfolio by purchasing The Brooklyn Paper, a well-respected broadsheet that's seen as the gem of the bunch. The entire stable was consolidated into the 11 community weeklies that now make up CNG, which has its headquarters in downtown Brooklyn's MetroTech Center.

As with all local papers, the CNG titles have seen a precipitous drop in classified advertising over the past 10 years, and circulation, which stands at a combined 250,000, according to the company, has declined as well, according to sources familiar with the business. Our sources could not confirm whether the operation is still profitable.

A News Corp. spokesperson declined to comment. But recent history seems to suggest this has been in the works for some time: Back in June, Les Goodstein, the senior vice president who'd been running CNG, resigned from his post. CNG publisher Cliff Luster stepped up to fill Goodstein's role following his departure.