The Pittsburgh-based parent company of The Press of Atlantic City has put the newspaper and its related businesses up for sale after careful consideration of the industry and the media company’s future.
John F. Bitzer III, president and chief executive officer of ABARTA Inc., said Monday the transformation of the newspaper industry poses challenges to The Press Media Group that would be better handled by a larger newspaper group or by local ownership that can leverage its ties to the community.
“ABARTA’s investment priorities have always emphasized growth. Stand-alone daily newspapers in medium-sized markets, while still very profitable, now have constraints that are easier for other potential owners to eliminate than they are for us as a family holding company,” Bitzer said.
The third- and fourth-generation family company has owned The Press of Atlantic City for 60 years. ABARTA’s other interests are in beverages, frozen food, energy and technology.
Bitzer said the family’s personal involvement with the newspaper made the decision difficult.
“We all have mixed feelings and a heavy heart about this decision. On the one hand, our family has proudly owned and operated The Press Media Group for 60 years,” he said. “Four generations of family members have worked in the business over that time, and we have always taken our Fourth Estate responsibilities very seriously.
“On the other hand, I am absolutely certain this decision is in the best long-term interests of both ABARTA and The Press,” Bitzer said.
ABARTA also on Monday appointed James W. Hopson as interim publisher and chief operating officer of The Press Media Group.
Hopson was publisher of The Press Media Group from 1989 to 1994. He will report directly to Bitzer, who said Hopson has considerable experience in operating and selling newspapers.
Bitzer said Hopson’s role as interim publisher will be threefold: providing leadership for the business, improving its financial performance, and ushering it through the sales process.
Hopson said he looked forward to his return to the newspaper.
“I am excited about this opportunity to return to The Press. It has always been a terrific newspaper and an important voice in Atlantic City and the New Jersey shore,” Hopson said. “I look forward to guiding the organization, reconnecting with old friends and helping to find a suitable new steward for this valuable publishing franchise.”
Bitzer thanked Keith Dawn, the former publisher, for 16 years of significant contributions to The Press.
The Press Media Group consists of The Press, which publishes daily and Sunday, and At The Shore; the weekly Hometown; SundaySaver; PressXtra; and Real Estate Monthly.
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