GateHouse buys Harris Enterprises, five Kansas papers

Posted November 14, 2016

GateHouse Media LLC will acquire the newspapers and most other assets of Harris Enterprises Inc., owner of five newspapers in Kansas, the two companies announced Monday.

The new owner will take over Dec. 1.

John D. Montgomery, currently publisher of The Hutchinson News, has been named senior group publisher to oversee GateHouse operations in Kansas. Montgomery has been editor and publisher of the News the past 10 years. He is a past president of the Kansas Press Association.

“We are excited to welcome the family of publications owned by Harris Enterprises to GateHouse Media,” Jason Taylor, Western division president, said. “We see the culture of these markets as a natural fit with our shared vision for quality local journalism and service to community.”

GateHouse already operates newspapers and associated websites in a number of Kansas communities.

It has newspapers in 36 states and hundreds of markets. It also operates Propel Marketing, a digital marketing services platform, which provides a broad range of solutions for small and mid-size business customers.

GateHouse is owned by New Media Investment Group Inc., a public company.

“We anticipate great synergies with our existing operations in Kansas and Iowa,” Taylor said.

Harris family involvement in the newspaper business started when Ralph Harris purchased the Ottawa Herald in 1907. Ownership now includes the third and fourth generations of the family.

“The families agreed earlier this year that the changes in the media landscape necessitated getting much bigger or turning over these newspapers to a larger owner,” said Bruce Buchanan, president of Harris. “GateHouse has a broad footprint and can compete on a national level while retaining a commitment to doing what newspapers do best, which is serving local communities.”

All existing employees except Buchanan and Harris chief financial officer Sarah Liebl will be offered the opportunity to continue with GateHouse. Buchanan and Liebl will remain as the company winds down.

“Many companies in this industry trim the staffs substantially with a sale, so we are pleased that GateHouse is keeping almost everyone,” Buchanan said. “Our stockholders only reluctantly decided to sell, but this will help our communities understand the commitment the buyer has to continuing the family legacy.”

Ralph Harris and his two sons, John P. and Sidney, extended their newspaper ownership with the purchase of the Chanute Tribune in 1927. In 1933, John and Sid added the Hutchinson News.

The Burlington (Iowa) Hawk Eye was purchased in 1941 and the Salina Journal in 1949. The Garden City Telegram joined the group in 1953, the Olathe Daily News in 1959, the Hays Daily News in 1970, and the Parsons Sun in 1982.

Olathe was sold in 1998, and Chanute and Parsons were sold in 2008. The five Kansas newspapers currently in Harris are the Garden City Telegram, Hays Daily News, Hutchinson News, Ottawa Herald and Salina Journal. Harris also owns the Burlington Hawk Eye in Iowa. Publishers of the Kansas newspapers will stay on. They include Tommy Felts of the Herald, Olaf Frandsen of the Journal, Patrick Lowry of the Daily News, Dena Sattler of the Telegram and Montgomery.

Current GateHouse newspapers in Kansas include: Butler County Times-Gazette, Cherokee County News-Advocate, Dodge City Daily Globe, Fort Leavenworth Lamp, Kiowa County Signal. Leavenworth Times, McPherson Sentinel, Newton Kansan, The Morning Sun (Pittsburg), Pratt Tribune, St. John News and the Wellington Daily News.