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June 2, 2015

New owner of MaineToday Media completes acquisition, rehires majority of employees

Camden media executive Reade Brower has completed the acquisition of MaineToday Media, bringing with him a majority of the employees who worked under the previous owner.

MaineToday Media announced Monday that MTM Values LLC, a company controlled by Maine financier S. Donald Sussman, completed its sale of the media company's assets to MTM Acquisition Inc., a company controlled by Brower, for an undisclosed price. A majority of the sale's proceeds are expected to retire the company's remaining debt.

MaineToday Media publishes the Portland Press Herald, Morning Sentinel, Kennebec Journal and Coastal Journal, and owns pressherald.com, centralmaine.com and mainetoday.com.

Stefanie Manning, MaineToday Media's vice president of marketing, told Mainebiz that fewer than 10 employees were not offered jobs during the ownership transition, leaving the company with roughly 400 full-time and part-time employees. She added that every employee offered a position under Brower's ownership accepted the offer. In MaineToday Media's announcement, Brower said employees were offered the same wages and benefits.

Manning indicated that contract negotiations with unions representing MaineToday Media employees are ongoing. "We are having productive conversations with all unions," she said.

In addition to retaining most of its employees, MaineToday Media said it is also retaining its current management team, led by CEO Lisa DeSisto, a former Boston Globe executive who has been in her current position since November 2012.

"We owe tremendous gratitude to Donald Sussman for enabling us to rebuild the quality of our journalism and the financial foundation of MTM," DeSisto said in a prepared statement. "With Reade's experience in media, marketing and commercial printing, we add more expertise to our organization. We can't imagine a better outcome and are thrilled the history of local ownership continues."

MaineToday Media said Brower's "plan is to build on the solid foundation established over the last three years" by Sussman, who invested $13 million into the company, "and work to set the company up for long-term sustainability." The company added that Brower wants the company to continue its "exceptional investigative and watchdog reporting."

Brower said in a prepared statement that MaineToday Media's 3.3% increase in daily circulation and 3% increase in Sunday circulation shows that the company is moving in the right direction. The company attributed circulation growth to an improved retention of existing subscribers and the addition of new digital subscribers through its digital paywall strategy.

"[MaineToday Media] has the right idea that giving content away for free online is not a viable business model," he said. "The strength in the circulation results demonstrates there is an audience willing to pay to access quality journalism. Our plan will be to build on this successful approach."

Brower said determining a long-term strategy for MaineToday Media's printing will be one of his more immediate focuses. The company said its presses at its South Portland facility are expensive because of costly materials, and that Chris Miles, CEO of Alliance Press in Brunswick, will lead the effort in determining the new strategy.

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