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Freedom Communications, Inc., is a media conglomerate that operates daily and weekly newspapers, websites and mobile applications, as well as Coast Magazine and other specialty publications. Headquartered at 625 N. Grand Avenue in Santa Ana, California, it is owned by a private equity firm, 2100 Trust, established in 2010 by investor Aaron Kushner Freedom's flagship newspaper is the Orange County Register, based in Santa Ana.
Founder R.C. Hoiles gained a one-third interest in his first newspaper (The Alliance Review in Ohio) sometime in the 1910s. He and his brother Frank bought many more local newspapers over the next several decades. In 1935 he moved his base of operations to Santa Ana, California, and in 1950 he incorporated his syndicate as Freedom Newspapers, Inc. It was renamed Freedom Communications in 1993. Freedom was operated as an entirely family-owned business until 2004, when private-equity firms Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners acquired a 40 percent share in Freedom for about $460 million. As part of this transaction, Freedom had acquired substantial debt.
On September 1, 2009, Freedom Communications went into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The company left bankruptcy on April 30, 2010, under the ownership of investment firms Alden Global Capital, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Luxor Capital Group. Lenders to the company also retained a stake in Freedom.
The company announced on November 2, 2011 that it would sell its entire television division to Sinclair Broadcast Group in a move to eliminate the company's debt. The sale was completed on April 2, 2012.
Freedom began selling the majority of its newspaper portfolio in 2012. Four papers in the Midwest were sold to Ohio Community Media, an affiliate of the private equity firm Versa Capital Management, in May. The Clovis News Journal and other newspapers in New Mexico were sold to Stevenson Newspapers. Freedom papers in Texas were sold to AIM Media Texas. Its Florida and North Carolina papers were sold to Halifax Media Group.
On June 11, 2012, Freedom Communications Holdings, Inc., announced an agreement to be acquired by 2100 Trust, LLC. in a merger with a subsidiary of 2100 Trust. On July 25, 2012, the latter, led by entrepreneur Aaron Kushner, acquired Freedom's dailies, associated non-daily publications and digital properties. The company continued to operate under the name Freedom Communications.
Kushner, who "preached the virtues of local journalism and a print product," bought Freedom in 2012 for $50 million plus assumption of pension liabilities. He increased staff and added new sections at the Orange County Register and began a new daily, the Long Beach Register. In January 2014, however, he announced heavy layoffs in Orange County and at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which he also owned. The Register launched a Los Angeles edition, the Los Angeles Register, on April 16, 2014, but the venture ended five months later. The Long Beach Register became a Sunday-only publication in June 2014, and ceased publication in December 2014.
Freedom closed the sale of The Gazette (Colorado Springs) to Clarity Media, a subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation, on November 30, 2012. In 2013, Freedom Communications sold the Yuma Sun and the Porterville Recorder to Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers and the Appeal-Democrat to Horizon Publications. In 2014, Freedom sold the Daily Press and the Desert Dispatch to New Media Investment Group.
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Freedom's newspaper portfolio consists of:
Freedom folded its broadcast division in 2012; as a result, none of these stations are currently owned by the company:
|City of license / Market||Station||Channel|
|Years Owned||Current Ownership Status|
|West Palm Beach, Florida||WPEC 1||12 (13)||1996-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|New Bedford, Massachusetts-Providence, Rhode Island||WLNE-TV||6 (49)||1983-2007||ABC affiliate owned by Citadel Communications|
|Kalamazoo/Grand Rapids, Michigan||WWMT||3 (8)||1998-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Lansing, Michigan||WLAJ||53 (51)||1998-2012||ABC affiliate owned by Shield Media, LLC|
(operated through LMA by Media General)
|Albany/Schenectady, New York||WRGB||6 (6)||1986-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|WCWN||45 (43)||2006-2012||The CW affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Medford, Oregon||KTVL 2||10 (10)||1981-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Chattanooga, Tennessee||WTVC||9 (9)||1983-2012||ABC affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|
|Beaumont, Texas||KFDM||6 (21)||1983-2012||CBS affiliate owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group|