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Allegheny

Pirates owner Bob Nutting secures deal to buy the Observer-Reporter daily newspaper

Natasha Lindstrom
| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, 7:36 p.m.
Pirates owner Bob Nutting talks with president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington in the dugout before a game against the Mets Friday, July 27, 2018, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates owner Bob Nutting talks with president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington in the dugout before a game against the Mets Friday, July 27, 2018, at PNC Park.

Citing the need for local newspapers “now more than ever,” Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting’s news media company has purchased the Observer-Reporter newspaper and its related assets, officials said Wednesday.

The Observer Publishing Co. — a 116-year-old, family-owned media company focused primarily on Washington and Greene counties — announced it has signed a letter of agreement to sell its assets to Ogden Newspapers, the Wheeling, W.Va.-based news media company owned by Nutting, the majority owner of Pittsburgh’s professional baseball team.

“It is increasingly difficult for an independent company to go it alone,” Tom Northrop, Observer Publishing Co. president, publisher and a fourth-generation shareholder, said in a statement. “The Nutting family understands the role that a newspaper plays in a community, they share our commitment to local news and they’re deeply invested in the region.”

Both entities expect to finalize the sale by Sept. 30.

Officials did not disclose a sale price nor provide further terms of the deal.

A spokesman for Nutting could not immediately be reached.

The acquisition follows a failed bid by Nutting to buy West Virginia’s largest newspaper, the Charleston Gazette-Mail, this past spring. Nutting had bid $10.9 million — or roughly $400,000 more than what the Pirates paid catcher Francisco Cervelli last year.

The Nutting family’s Ogden Newspapers spans 40 daily newspapers, magazines and weeklies in 13 states.

The Observer Publishing Co. includes the Observer-Reporter, a daily newspaper covering Washington and Green counties as well as the Mon Valley and Pittsburgh’s South Hills. The company’s assets also include the weekly Almanac, monthly magazines and a digital advertising agency, Reimagine Mainstreet.

“We believe very strongly in the power of printed newspapers. We believe in their value to readers, advertisers and communities,” Perry Nardo, regional publisher of Ogden Newspapers, said in a statement. “The role of credible media outlets like the Observer-Reporter is fundamentally important, now more than ever.”

In June 2017, Ogden purchased the Herald-Standard daily newspaper in Uniontown from Calkins Media.

A month later, Ogden laid off 30 people, including the newspaper’s entire photography department.

Nardo said Ogden’s leadership is “thrilled to have the opportunity to continue the Northrop family’s impressive work.”

There are no plans to reduce the number of days per week that the newspaper is printed, officials said.

“We look forward to publishing a great community-focused, seven-day-a-week newspaper, as well as the Almanac and the wide range of magazines and the vital digital media platform serving Washington and Greene counties,” Nardo said.

Ogden further pledged to follow through on an agreement that Observer Publishing Co. made last year with Washington & Jefferson College to turn its former circulation building on Main Street into a small business incubator, officials said in the release. Executing that vision was “a high priority as we explored a sale,” Northrop said.

“The Nuttings needed no convincing that this was a great idea for our town and a valuable partnership for the company,” Northrop said.

Cribb, Greene and Cope, a publication brokerage firm based in Montana, assisted with the sale.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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