Owner of Village Voice in active talks with potential buyers




by Jaewon Kang | Published September 3, 2015

As Voice Media Group Inc. holds active discussions with potential buyers for The Village Voice, industry watchers say the best bet for the owner of the New York alternative weekly is to find a local publisher willing to attempt turning around an iconic newspaper that may have lost its luster.

Newspaper group Voice Media Group is actively involved in talks on the sale of The Village Voice, its flagship, with a wide pool of suitors, The Deal has learned.

Denver-based Voice Media Group publishes alternative weeklies, which are niche publications focusing on producing local, offbeat content. The newspaper group has been exploring strategic options, including a sale or acquisitions of publications, since January. So far, it has sold City Pages in Minneapolis to Star Tribune Co. and divested Riverfront Times in St. Louis to Euclid Media Group.

In addition to the Village Voice, Voice Media also publishes LA Weekly, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times and the Houston Press, among others.

The Deal previously reported that The Village Voice was receiving a fair amount of interest at the start of the review process and that Voice Media Group was more open to selling its publication in New York than offloading LA Weekly in California.

What may help is that another major New York media property, the New York Daily News, is no longer for sale. Billionaire Mort Zuckerman in August pulled the Daily News off the block, only about six months after tapping Lazard Ltd. to explore strategic options for his tabloid.

Founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer, the Village Voice has established itself as a New York institution mostly because of its coverage of the city’s dynamic cultural scene. The paper has also produced prominent art critics such as Robert Christgau, Deborah Jowitt and Michael Musto, among others.

Village Voice’s circulation for the period ended Dec. 31 was 75,212, according to Alliance for Audited Media. (LA Weekly had 90,898 for the period ended June 30, 2015.)

Based on the circulation number, editorial content and quality of the product, the Voice could fetch between $1 million to $1.2 million, according to Kevin Kamen, CEO of print media appraisal and brokerage firm Kamen & Co.

While the alt weekly is certainly marketable, it has been in a declining mode for the past several years and has weak circulation numbers, he said.

He doubted that the newspaper could be turned around unless it’s sold to a local buyer who can cross-sell and cross-promote its advertising pages with other media properties. Even then, a local publisher is only likely to pay around $800,000 for the Voice, Kamen explained.

“They’ve had instability going on for seven to eight years,” said an industry source who asked for anonymity. “My gut feeling is that this will end up being somewhat of a fire sale.”

This person said that the Voice lost its luster “a good 10 years ago,” suggesting that Greenwich Village itself may not hold the same attraction as it once did.

“If you look at recent housing trends amongst the younger people, they flock to Brooklyn,” the person said. “You don’t hear about this influx of people moving into the Village. When the paper was emerging and was the standard in [New York], it was the younger, outspoken, new thoughts-type editorial and news coverage that was emanating from the Village that made it different.”

Meanwhile, Voice Media has been through a number of ownership iterations over the past several years.

The Village Voice was acquired in 2000 by a group of investors that included arms of investment firms Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Trimaran Capital Partners. In 2005, that company, Village Voice Media Inc., merged with New Times Media to form Village Voice Media Holdings LLC. A group of executives bought Village Voice Media from its owners in 2012 and has expanded it into its current form.