Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises Inc. announced today it has agreed to acquire the print and digital assets of the Kenosha News and the Lake Geneva Regional News from Kenosha-based United Communications Corp. The transaction is expected to close Jan. 31.
The Kenosha News is a daily newspaper with an average circulation of 20,000. Its predecessor, the Kenosha Evening News, was established in 1894.
UCC was established by the late newspaper veteran Howard Brown, who in 1961 acquired controlling interest in the Kenosha News. According to UCC, the Kenosha News created the first wire service in Wisconsin. The Kenosha News lists 28 employees on its website.
The Lake Geneva Regional News is a weekly publication. UCC acquired it from the Bearder family in 1999. The publication dates back to 1873, and after several mergers with other local papers, became the Regional News in 1925.
UCC also owns television stations in Watertown, New York and North Mankato, Minnesota. Howard died in 2011. His wife, Elizabeth Brown, serves as chairwoman and his eldest daughter, Lucy Brown, is the president and chief executive officer of UCC. His other daughters and sons-in-law are directors.
“The Brown Family is very grateful for the hard work and dedication of all Kenosha News and Lake Geneva Regional News employees, both past and present,” Lucy Brown said in a statement. "Making the decision to sell is extraordinarily difficult, but we welcome Lee Enterprises and know the future looks bright under their leadership.”
Reached by phone, Brown said: "The new publisher, Mark Lewis, who will be the regional publisher covering Kenosha, Lake Geneva and Racine…it’s his mission to continue to improve the paper.”
Lee owns more than 300 publications in 49 markets in 20 states, including the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, the Daily Citizen in Beaver Dam, the Baraboo News Republic, the Portage Daily Register, The Journal Times in Racine, the La Crosse Tribune and The Chippewa Herald in Wisconsin. Its total daily circulation is 700,000 and its Sunday circulation is 1.1 million. The company expects the acquisitions to be accretive to its earnings in the first year of ownership.
“These two markets fit very nicely into our already strong footprint in Wisconsin,” said Kevin Mowbray, president and CEO of Lee, in a statement. “Their proximity to existing Lee properties creates opportunity for synergies while greatly strengthening our audiences in southeast Wisconsin.”
A Lee spokesman declined to disclose how many employees work at either publication, or to comment on any changes expected to their operations following the acquisitions. Brown and a leader at the Lake Geneva Regional News directed questions to the spokesman.