Annex newspaper division sold to Sun Media

(The following story ran in the October 31 issue of the Tillsonburg (ON) News.)

The Tillsonburg (ON) News and the Tillsonburg (ON) Independent News have been sold to Sun Media. The deal, announced Oct.30, includes the sale of Annex Publishing & PrintingÔÇÖs newspaper division and a commercial web printing operation in Tillsonburg.

ÔÇ£The purchase of these newspapers in southern Ontario reflects our continuing efforts to strengthen our geographic clusters in those markets where we are strong,ÔÇØ said Pierre Francoeur, president and CEO of Sun Media Corporation. ÔÇ£These newspapers are very well managed publications, and we look forward to welcoming the management, staff and newspapers to our Sun Media family.ÔÇØ

Other publications included in the sale are: Lakeshore Shopper, Simcoe (ON) Reformer, Simcoe (ON) Tuesday Times Reformer, Woodstock (ON) Sentinel-Review, Oxford Review, Ingersoll (ON) Times, Norwich (ON) Gazette and the Oxford Shopping News. The newspapers will form a new cluster in Sun MediaÔÇÖs operations. Cam McKnight, current president of AnnexÔÇÖs newspaper division, will be senior group publisher of the cluster.

ÔÇ£I believe that this transaction will be a win-win situation for everyone involved. AnnexÔÇÖs newspaper group should be a good match for the Sun culture. ÔÇ£As far as the readership in Tillsonburg goes, Sun Media has top-notch columnists and general media services we can access.ÔÇØ

Pat Logan, publisher of the Woodstock (ON) Sentinel-Review, will be group publisher for Woodstock, Ingersoll and Norwich.

ÔÇ£Our Annex newspapers will fit in very well with SunÔÇÖs strategy to be the number one community publisher in the country,ÔÇØ said Mike Fredericks, president and CEO of Annex Publishing.

About 200 people are employed in AnnexÔÇÖs newspaper group. Negotiations between Sun Media and Annex began about three months ago. Earlier in the summer Osprey Media was negotiating to purchase AnnexÔÇÖs newspaper assets. That deal fell through in late July. That provided a window for Sun Media to jump in, said David Swail, SunÔÇÖs vice-president operations, Central Canada.

ÔÇ£I think Sun Media had admired AnnexÔÇÖs operation for a number of years,ÔÇØ he said.

The deal also provides a great opportunity to share resources between publications, Swail said. Sun Media, a subsidiary of Quebecor, owns 16 daily newspapers, including the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun and the London Free Press, and 178 community weeklies and specialty publications. Annex Publishing was formed in 1997 with Mike and Sue Fredericks of Simcoe as majority shareholders. Logan and McKnight were minority shareholders. The company also includes a magazine and fine print division in Delhi. Those divisions were not included in the sale to Sun Media.

ÔÇ£Those businesses will be based in Simcoe with intent to grow aggressively. Acquisitions are scheduled to be announced before year-end.ÔÇØ Fredericks said. He would not elaborate on the nature of the acquisitions. There are about 100 employees in the companyÔÇÖs magazine and fine printing divisions. The sale is expected to close on Nov. 3.