Tribune, other HNE properties sold to Texas company

The parent company of The Tribune is selling its newspapers and related properties.

Home News Enterprises, based in Columbus and owned by the Brown family, announced Wednesday it had reached an agreement to sell The Tribune and its other newspapers, online and commercial printing properties to a company that owns community newspapers in Texas.

The new owner is AIM Media Indiana LLC, an affiliate of AIM Media Texas LLC. Both companies are managed by AIM Media Management of Dallas, where Jeremy L. Halbreich serves as chairman and chief executive officer and Rick Starks is president and chief operating officer.

“It is our goal and strongest desire to continue this community service, and we look forward to providing the guidance and direction necessary for these publications to engage their local audiences and set the civic agenda and discourse in both online and print for the communities they serve,” Halbreich said. “These are important, impactful and attractive businesses located in an extraordinary and unique group of towns in southern Indiana.”

AIM announced all HNE employees will be hired and continue in their respective jobs and positions with the new company.

Jeffrey N. Brown, HNE president and chief executive officer, will remain with the company and retain his current operating responsibilities.

The acquisition ends six generations of Brown family members being involved in newspaper ownership.

The decision to sell the company was difficult, said Brown, who has led HNE for more than 20 years.

“There comes a point in time in older multigenerational family businesses where family members, many of whom are in or near retirement, need to exit from their ownership in order to pursue other interests,” Brown said of the decision to seek a buyer.

“Our family is incredibly appreciative of the support of our communities and our customers through the years. It’s been a great run, and we know that AIM will continue in that same tradition,” Brown said.

Jeffrey Brown and his father, Robert N. Brown, turned The Republic, a small central Indiana newspaper, into a corporate entity publishing newspapers in Seymour, Franklin, Nashville and Greenfield, expanding its commercial printing operations, developing magazine and specialty publications and creating a robust online and digital presence. Through the decades, Brown family newspapers have been honored for journalism excellence.

Brown said he looked for a company with a shared vision and with the same commitment his family has demonstrated.

“AIM came to us with a compelling offer that helps to preserve HNE’s local autonomy,” Brown said. “We came to appreciate AIM’s focus on the importance of local newspapers and our commercial printing operations. AIM brings the potential to continue HNE’s growth in both media properties and commercial printing services.”

Halbreich knew Robert N. Brown, who died in 2004, and said he has come to admire Jeffrey Brown’s leadership of HNE.

“Home News Enterprises has long been one of the most respected and admired publishing and media companies in the United States,” Halbreich said.

“The Brown family has demonstrated extraordinary commitment, support and leadership to these local communities throughout their six generations of ownership,” he said.

Halbreich has a rich newspaper background.

He leads daily and weekly newspapers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and purchased those online and print assets in 2012 from Freedom Communications Inc. HNE purchased The Tribune in Seymour from Freedom Communications Inc. at the same time.

Before establishing AIM Media Texas, Halbreich was at the helm of major U.S. media companies.

He is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Sun-Times Media LLC in Chicago; former founder, chairman, president and chief executive officer of American Consolidated Media in Dallas; and former president and general manager of The Dallas Morning News.

During his tenure at the Chicago Sun-Times, the newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

Halbreich pledged to carry on the Brown family commitment to local news, effective advertising and outstanding journalism.

“These publications and the service they provide their respective communities in Indiana represent a great testimony to the hard work, dedication and true community service established and maintained by the Brown family over many decades in conjunction with their talented staff of dedicated employees,” Halbreich said.

“We are gratified by the Brown family’s confidence in us as publishers of local, community newspapers to build on their heritage, traditions and focus on community service,” he added.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.