Parent Digital first to put itself on the block


NEW HAVEN — Digital First Media, parent company of the New Haven Register, announced earlier this month that it planned to  “evaluate and consider strategic alternatives” that could lead to the sale of some or all of the company.

CEO John Paton said the company has retained UBS Securities to review a full range of alternatives — including selling the entire company, selling regional clusters or doing nothing.

Headquartered in New York, Digital First Media was formed in December 2013 with the merger of MediaNews Group and the former Journal Register Co., whose flagship daily was the Register. It is the nation’s second-largest newspaper company, based on circulation, operating in 15 states, with 800 multi-platform news and information products, including 76 daily and Sunday newspapers and 160 weeklies.

The company is owned by the privately owned New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

These are tough times for the Register, which has seen its circulation plummet in the digital era — an irony, considering its new parent company’s name. Earlier this year the daily sold its longtime 220,00-square-foot 40 Sargent Drive headquarters to billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Co. (which will open a Jordan’s Furniture — another company owned by Buffet — on the site).

Instead, the “New Haven” Register will no longer even have a presence in its namesake community, decamping for a space less than one-tenth the size of its former headquarters — the 18,000-square-foot former Star Supply building at 100 Gando Drive in North Haven. The downsizing was made possible by the fact that the daily no longer prints itself. The Register now jobs out its printing to the Hartford Courant — a business deal unthinkable just a few years ago between two implacable media rivals but now made practical by the grim realities of the daily newspaper industry.

Media analysts said it would be hard to find a buyer for Digital First Media as a whole, and that a more probable outcome would be for multiple regional buyers to acquire pieces of the company.

According to a company release, newspaper analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell, who first reported that Alden Global Capital was getting ready to sell Digital First Media, predicted a sale in the near future.

“I think we’ll see largely the dissolution of this company within six months,” Doctor said.