Spire, Wachovia back $85m newspaper deal

Spire Capital Partners and Wachovia Capital Partners have teamed up to acquire publisher American Community Newspapers from existing investors including Weiss, Peck & Greer.

New York-based private equity firm Spire Capital Partners and Wachovia Capital Partners have acquired American Community Newspapers (ACN), a Minneapolis-based publisher of weekly newspapers, for a reported $85 million (€64 million).


A predecessor fund controlled by Spire’s managing members, Waller-Sutton Media Partners, formed ACN in 1998 with private equity group Weiss, Peck & Greer. According to reports, both Weiss, Peck & Greer and Waller-Sutton are selling their stakes in the transaction.


ACN, formerly Lionheart Newspapers, comprises two daily and 68 weekly newspapers serving the Minneapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; and Dallas/Ft. Worth areas. Two company executives, chief executive officer Gene Carr and chief financial officer Dan Wilson, were also investors in the present deal.


The ACN transaction represents Wachovia’s second newspaper acquisition of the year. In April 2004, the firm bought Heartland Publications, a publisher of 22 daily and weekly newspapers in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.


The current deal also represents the second time this year that Spire and Wachovia have invested together. In April 2004, the two investment firms joined Carlyle Venture Partners in the $125.5 million buyout of Sonitrol, a unit of Tyco International specialising in security systems.


Spire Capital manages a $260 million fund that invests primarily in the media and communications industry.  The firm is managed and controlled by Andrew J. Armstrong, Joel A. Goldblatt, Bruce M. Hernandez and Richard H. Patterson.