$27M sale of former Belo Corp. property Riverside Press-Enterprise closes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The publisher of the Orange County Register has finalized its purchase of the Riverside Press-Enterprise for more than $27 million, the newspapers’ owners announced Thursday.

Freedom Communications Holdings Inc. bought the Press-Enterprise from Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corp. about a month after the deal originally was announced. The companies’ joint statement didn’t indicate whether there might be any staff or editorial changes.

Freedom will now own the largest daily newspaper in inland Southern California, with a weekday circulation of about 138,000. The newspaper’s coverage base is east of Los Angeles in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The Press-Enterprise “plays an incredibly important role in building community and adding richness to people’s lives. Our focus moving forward will be to enhance the ways we can provide value to subscribers of The Press-Enterprise and the greater community,” Freedom’s co-owner and CEO Aaron Kushner said in the statement.

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Kushner used the same phrase in an interview last month with The Associated Press, declining to detail how he would give “more value” but adding, “That does typically mean that you need more journalists and more pages.”

When Freedom bought the Register a year ago, Kushner increased its staff size and page counts.

Freedom also owns the Daily Press in Victorville and the Desert Dispatch in Barstow, along with a new daily, the Long Beach Register, and more than 30 community newspapers and magazines.

Belo’s papers include the Dallas Morning News and the Providence Journal in Rhode Island.

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Santa Ana-based Freedom paid $27.25 million for the Press-Enterprise, its production facility and land about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Belo continues to own land and buildings of a discontinued commercial printing operation in Riverside that it will try to sell, the company said.

“We are pleased the transaction has closed and wish our colleagues in Riverside all the best as they go forward as part of Freedom Communications,” Jim Moroney, Belo’s chairman, president and CEO, said in the statement.