Osprey eyes Annex papers

Mike Fredericks was looking to buy a newspaper or two but ended up finding a prospective buyer instead.

Fredericks, president and CEO of Annex Publishing & Printing Inc., said the companyÔÇÖs dailies, weeklies and shoppers are being pursued by Osprey Media Group Inc. after talks started in early March.

The sale of Annex newspapers – Delhi News-Record, Ingersoll Times, Norwich Gazette, Simcoe Reformer, Tillsonburg Independent News, Tillsonburg News, Tuesday Times-Reformer and Woodstock Sentinel-Review – could happen by the end of this month. The Lakeshore Shopper and Oxford Shopping News would also be included.

ÔÇ£I didnÔÇÖt expect it to come so soon,ÔÇØ chuckled Fredericks as he
prepared for an out-of-town meeting. ÔÇ£Up until some recent twists and turns, we were trying to buy other newspapers in other markets.ÔÇØ

While the sale hasnÔÇÖt taken place yet, Fredericks is confident a deal will be made before the end of June. Annex will keep its stable of specialty and trade magazines as well as the fine printing division.

ÔÇ£I intend to be staying in this area,ÔÇØ the Simcoe resident said. ÔÇ£I may take on a role with Osprey, but nothing has been decided yet.ÔÇØ

Osprey owns 22 dailies, more than 24 weeklies and specialty
publications. The company recently swapped some newspapers with Torstar, taking on some titles in the Kingston area and giving up others in the Hamilton-Orangeville area.

Fredericks and Michael Sifton, president of Osprey, sit on several newspaper-related boards. They meet monthly and often share advice and tips with other peers in the newspaper industry.

ÔÇ£I was trying to buy newspapers from Osprey,ÔÇØ Fredericks said. ÔÇ£Michael was saying that they werenÔÇÖt selling, they were still acquiring.

ÔÇ£He said if ever the time for selling came up, we would sit and talk.ÔÇØ

Later, Sifton suggested Osprey should buy the Annex newspapers.

ÔÇ£We havenÔÇÖt reached an absolute agreement yet but we are very close,ÔÇØ Fredericks said.

There are still some property issues to work out before the sale is finalized.

Fredericks said the community newspapers will be in good hands with Osprey.

ÔÇ£They have a strong feeling for community journalism and a lot of their newspapers are outside the larger markets. They are going to be doing some good things in the industry.ÔÇØ

Annex will have more time and resources to spend on building up the magazine division. Plans are in the works for further acquisitions.

Cam McKnight, president of Annex Newspaper Group, said discussions with Osprey indicated that existing newspaper management and employees for the group would stay intact.

McKnight expects Osprey will ensure the newspapers continue to play a major role in the communities they serve.