News Corp. is exploring the sale of its Dow Jones Local Media Group, a collection of community newspapers that includes the Ashland Daily Tidings and Mail Tribune, according to company executives. The group's papers, situated mainly on the East Coast, were formerly part of Ottaway Community Newspapers.
The company has hired Waller Capital Partners, a New York-based investment bank, to shop the papers, in hopes of selling them before the company spins off its publishing assets into a separate company this summer, according to sources.
Ed Adler, a spokesman for Waller Capital, declined to comment.
In an email sent to employees Tuesday by Dow Jones Local Media Group's executive chairman, Patrick Purcell, and its chief operating officer, William Kennedy, the sale of the newspapers was described as "likely."
"We are letting you know today," the pair wrote, "that Dow Jones is currently engaged in a process that will likely result in the sale of LMG and its assets."
They also wrote there "is no timetable for such a sale or details to share on potential buyers ... ."
The email said publishers will schedule meetings at the newspapers today to discuss the development with staff.
Founded by James H. Ottaway Sr. in 1936, the community newspaper group today includes eight general-interest daily newspapers and their related websites in California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
In fiscal 2012, their average daily circulation was more than 188,000 and Sunday circulation was over 238,000, News Corp. has said in government filings.
In addition to Medford and Ashland, the group's West Coast papers include The Record in Stockton, Calif. The Mail Tribune has been part of the Ottaway/Dow Jones group since 1973 and the Daily Tidings was purchased by the group in 2002.
News Corp. acquired the Ottaway papers and renamed the group when it bought Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, in 2007. It tried briefly to sell the papers at that time but pulled the papers off the market in 2008.
Newspaper industry observers say potential buyers could include Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which has bought dozens of local newspapers in the last year, as well as Halifax Media Group, which bought the New York Times Co.'s regional newspapers last year.
News Corp.'s move comes as several major metropolitan dailies are also on the market. The New York Times Co. recently put the Boston Globe up for sale, while Tribune Co. is exploring the sale of its newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.