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Goodbye Mr. 'Chip'

Another Massachusetts institution is heading into out-of-town hands. The Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co. (ETPC) -- which includes the Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence, The Salem News, Gloucester Daily Times, and The Daily News of Newburyport -- has been sold to Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI) of Birmingham, Alabama, according to an announcement made today. After this deal, which is expected to be completed in September, CNHI will own 91 daily papers in 22 states with a total circulation of over 1 million. CNHI Terms of the sale were not announced.

The Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co. has been owned by the Rogers family of Andover, Mass. for 107 years. In a statement to employees, publisher and chairman Irving E. "Chip" Rogers III said: "Today we've stretched to and sometimes beyond capacity....In a nutshell, we became too big to be small, but were still too small to be big." It was only back in 2002 that the Eagle-Tribune greatly expanded its empire with the $70 million purchase of the Salem, Gloucester and Newburyport papers from the Ottaway Newspapers division of Dow Jones.

Rogers will remain with the new company in an undetermined capacity and ETPC president and CEO Richard Franks will retain those posts under the new ownership. Asked about the fate of editor-in-chief Bill Ketter and the ETPC staff members, company spokesman Dan Griffin said "we expect very little change, if any."


Below is the official press release and a text of Rogers's remarks.



Date: July 27, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER HOLDINGS, INC. TO ACQUIRE
EAGLE-TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY

North Andover, Mass. Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI) of Birmingham, Ala., has agreed to purchase Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company, ETPC chairman and publisher Irving E. "Chip" Rogers III announced today. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Formed in 1997, CNHI is the parent company for daily, weekly and semiweekly newspapers published in more than 150 communities throughout the United States.
ETPC publishes newspapers serving 55 communities in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.
With weekday readership totaling more than 291,000, ETPC's four daily newspapers include The Eagle-Tribune, based in North Andover, Mass.; The Salem News, based in Beverly, Mass.; Gloucester Daily Times, based in Gloucester, Mass.; and The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass. Daily circulation totals 105,958.
Additionally, ETPC publishes six nondaily newspapers. ETPC's daily and weekly circulation totals more than 205,000. Its daily and weekly newspapers combine to reach more than 341,000 readers.
Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, a newspaper merger-and-acquisition firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, represented ETPC in the transaction.
The Rogers family of Andover, Mass., has owned Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company for 107 years. The Lawrence Daily Eagle was founded in 1868 and the competing Evening Tribune was launched in 1890. Alexander Rogers, great-grandfather of current chairman and publisher Chip Rogers, was a reporter for the Daily Eagle when he borrowed from his father to acquire the two papers in 1898.
Chip Rogers assumed the role of publisher in 1998, following the death of his father, Irving E. Rogers, Jr.
The Eagle-Tribune, the company's flagship daily newspaper, has been the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, the first in 1988 and the second in 2003, and has been named a Pulitzer runner-up on two other occasions.
Rogers views CNHI's acquisition of the family-owned company as "a natural step forward for ETPC's future growth," he said.
"CNHI is focused on high-quality local journalism and that's what we've been about for 107 years," he said.
"During that time, my family has been honored to play a part in building and strengthening the communities we serve," he said. "No question: It's a stewardship."
Mike Reed, CNHI's president and CEO, looks forward to the opportunities the acquisition of ETPC will create.
"Not only are these newspapers well-known and respected in our industry for their journalistic excellence, they are also noted for being well run businesses, which speaks highly of the Rogers family," he said.
"We are proud to have these newspapers join the CNHI family and we know we will learn much from them," he said.
After this acquisition is complete, CNHI will own 91 daily newspapers in 22 states with combined daily circulation of more than 1 million.



Statement to Employees
Irving E. "Chip" Rogers III, Chairman and Publisher
Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company
Wednesday, July 27, 2005 at 8:30 a.m.

Good morning.
I've stood in this newsroom on many occasions to mark milestones in the history of Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company, the most memorable occasions, of course, were to announce our winning of two Pulitzer Prizes.
Today, I'm here to announce another milestone. On Monday evening, I signed an agreement to sell Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company to Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., CNHI, of Birmingham, Alabama. I expect the deal to become final by mid-September.
How did I come to this decision? And why did I choose CNHI?
As chairman of the company, I'm responsible to our shareholders and also to all of you. It's my job to make decisions that I hope are best for everyone in the long term.
During the past five years, we've built the company tremendously. Today, we've stretched to and sometimes beyond capacity, and that's not news to many of you.
To date, we've been the consolidator, and, to stay on this track, we knew we needed to add significant production capacity or join a larger company with greater capacity.
In a nutshell, we became too big to be small, but were still too small to be big.
So, after reviewing all the options, our board concluded that the best way for us to keep growing in the future was to join another newspaper publisher, and CNHI was clearly a great choice in making that move.
From my dealings with CNHI, I know how committed the company is to providing the highest quality in community journalism, and that's what we've been about for the past 107 years, and I know how impressed they are with our company and the quality of its staff and newspapers.
I'm also very impressed with their CEO, Mike Reed. We share many of the same philosophies about how to run a successful newspaper operation.
Most important, we'll be CNHI's flagship, their largest operating unit in the United States.
Today, CNHI owns and operates newspapers in more than 150 communities throughout the United States. ETPC will be its only holding in New England.
When the transaction is complete, CNHI will own 91 daily newspapers in 22 states with combined daily circulation of more than 1 million. And The Eagle-Tribune will be its largest daily newspaper.
I'm sure this development comes as a surprise. I want you to know that I honestly believe this is a natural and positive step forward for the company's future growth, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your part thus far in building an organization that will unquestionably be the flagship of its new ownership.
Although I'll be staying on with the company and Dick Franks will remain as CEO and president, for many of us here, and I'm no exception, today's occasion is one that naturally prompts a host of memories and mixed emotions.
Let me say this: We've always set our sights high. We've always worked to become part of something bigger, just as we did in 2002, when Essex County Newspapers and The Eagle-Tribune joined together to move ahead. Just as we did in 2001, when Carriage Towne News joined our family of weekly newspapers.
Growth and change are what keep us healthy and strong. And, as we've grown in the past, the company needs to keep growing.
Of course, the bigger a company gets, the more complex the challenge of growth becomes.
So, as we continue with "business as usual," a business approach that certainly distinguishes us from the pack. I honestly hope you'll come to see this development as I do, not as a negative judgment of any sort, but as a "next step" in meeting the business challenges we face every day.
Once again, I want to thank you for your part in making this company great. The past may be full of wonderful memories, but, as the new flagship for a respected and national newspaper organization, the future is bright for Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company.

Mark Jurkowitz can be reached at Mjurkowitz@phx.com
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