Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc., Stephens Media seek OK for deal

Stephens Media LLC and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc., which is owned by WEHCO Media Inc., have asked the U.S. Justice Department to approve a joint venture agreement for the two companies in northwest Arkansas.

Stephens Media publishes the Morning News in Rogers and Springdale, Ark., and weekly publications in Benton and Washington County, Ark., and McDonald County, Mo. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. publishes the Benton County Daily Record, the Northwest Arkansas Times in Fayetteville, and a zoned edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as well as several area weeklies.

The Morning News and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Northwest Edition have suffered significant financial losses during the current economic recession. Both companies have employed various cost-cutting strategies, but the newspapers have continued to have significant operating losses.

Under the proposed joint venture agreement, the two companies would form a jointly owned limited liability company.

The companies will contribute the assets of their Northwest Arkansas daily and weekly newspapers, real property, plants, and equipment to the new company.

Stephens Media would be responsible for editorial control of the local newspapers in northwest Arkansas. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. would control advertising, business, production and circulation functions of the new company, and would be in charge of the editorial functions of the Northwest Arkansas Edition of the Democrat-Gazette.

At the request of the Department of Justice, Stephens Media has agreed to pursue a sale of the Morning News to a qualified buyer who would agree to continue publishing the Morning News separately as a daily newspaper in competition with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspapers and other media.

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