Vineyard Gazette sold to retired KKR co-founder Kohlberg
The Vineyard Gazette, a newspaper published on Martha's Vineyard for 164 years, has been sold by its longtime owners, the Reston family, to Jerome Kohlberg, co-founder of a major New York investment firm, for $3.5 million.
The sale, announced today, includes $2 million for the newspaper business and $1.5 million for the Gazette's real estate. Kohlberg and his wife, Nancy, have formed a limited liability company to own the Gazette. In the real estate side of the transaction, they gave $1.5 million to the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust, to buy the historic 1760 building where the paper has been published since the 1930s.
“My goal is to give back to the Vineyard and to the Gazette,” said Jerome Kohlberg, who made his fortune at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the private equity firm known for aggressive buyouts in the 1980s.
“I have been a seasonal resident of Martha’s Vineyard for more than half a century, since first coming to the island in 1943. Throughout that period, I have been a devoted reader and great admirer of the Vineyard Gazette, which has been blessed with remarkable publishers."
The Kohlbergs are acquiring the paper -- published twice weekly in summer and once a week in winter -- from Richard Reston, who has been the paper’s publisher since 1988 and is retiring.
His wife, Mary Joe, previously managed the Gazette with him but retired in 1999. Richard Reston's father, James Reston, a famous New York Times executive editor and columnist, ran the paper before him.
Jerome Kohlberg plans to hire a new publisher, with the help of a search committee that includes several high-profile journalists, according to a Gazette press release. Kohlberg also plans to keep the paper's editor, Julia Wells, in place, along with general manager Joseph T. Pitt on the business side.
The deal marks a major changing of the guard for an award-winning news outlet that chronicles life on the tony island off Cape Cod, from the recent wind farm controversy to the summer visits of US presidents. The Gazette was named Newspaper of the Year among weeklies with circulation over 10,000 by the New England Newspaper and Press Association last month. It said it has won the award eight times since 1990.
Kohlberg retired from KKR in 1987, reportedly because he did not favor the giant leveraged buyouts the firm was engaging in at the time. He and his wife now run a farm with free-range livestock and his wife has a restaurant in Mount Kisko, NY.
He said in a statement that, "I want the Gazette to be a vibrant voice for the Vineyard community far into the future, continuing the wonderful traditions from the past, offering excellent, in-depth journalism, reaching the Vineyard’s diverse communities, and adapting, as necessary, to the changing economic conditions which are affecting print media all across the nation.”