PHILADELPHIA – Versa Capital Management LLC, a private equity investment firm, today announced the creation of Civitas Media LLC, a new community news media company.
Civitas, Latin for "community" or "citizen," combines four media entities owned by Versa: Freedom Central, Heartland Publications, Impressions Media and Ohio Community Media.
The Wilkes-Barre-based Impressions Media includes The Times Leader, Sunday Dispatch, Dallas Post, Abington Journal, Go Lackawanna, The Weekender and Local Mantra, a digital product marketing and services company.
"We have assembled an excellent group of community news publishers over the past 15 months and combining them together under the Civitas umbrella is a logical and value-enhancing result," stated Versa's CEO Gregory L. Segall. "Community-based media has remained profitable and largely avoided the level of financial pressure experienced by large daily metros in recent years. They are the principal source of information and news content as well as the primary advertising vehicles for their communities, whether in print or online, and we see a more stable and resilient future for this sector."
Civitas, which now employs 1,650 people at 99 locations across 12 states in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and South, serves its communities through its dedication to the delivery of local information, including news and advertising solutions, across a variety of platforms.
These communities are served by 35 local daily newspapers, including 28 with weekend editions as well as 63 weekly products. These papers have a combined average weekly circulation of 1.6 million.
Civitas also serves these communities with numerous free, advertisement supported publications and a growing online presence. In addition, Civitas publishes specialty products such as local community directories, wine magazines, regional agricultural publications, realty publications, local entertainment guides and online magazines and SEO solutions.
"This signals an exciting opportunity to extend our growth and success," said Prashant Shitut, the president and CEO of Impressions Media. "The new company shares our values of providing community news and excellent customer service to our customers and clients."
The merged organization is led by CEO Michael Bush, formerly the CEO of group member Heartland Publications, and COO Scott Champion, formerly the CEO of group member Ohio Community Media. The capitalization and working capital requirements of the businesses are supported by a new $62.5 million multi-bank senior term loan and revolving credit facility led by RBS Citizens, N.A.
Bush commented, "I am very excited to be working with Versa Capital, which has assembled a valuable collection of community media assets and has a reputation for supporting its companies both financially and operationally. Civitas has a promising future as a media company, and is well positioned to further benefit from the eventual recovery of U.S. economic activity."
Bush further noted "There are many opportunities for serving the local communities as we realize synergies from our combined strength. At Heartland we successfully implemented similar programs, and I look forward to working with the entire Civitas organization to explore best-in-class practices that can be utilized across many platforms. We have many excellent editorial and advertising professionals with valuable, local community ties. Our emphasis will always be on the communities we serve."
Segall concluded, "While operational improvements are anticipated in the near-term, we plan to leave day-to-day control of editorial content in the hands of the people who know the local markets best."