June 19, 2017 Last Updated 4:30 pm

Lee Enterprises acquire their cross-river rival Dispatch-Argus in $7.15M deal

Lee owns the daily newspapers across the Mississippi River in Iowa, the Quad-City Times and the Muscatine Journal

The past couple of weeks have been busy ones for newspaper M&A. Today, for instance, Calkins Media announced that it sold newspaper properties to Ogden Newspapers and GateHouse Media, and Friday Civitas Media announced that it had sold its print and digital assets in North and South Carolina to Champion Media LLC.

Today, Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises picked up the Moline Dispatch / Rock Island Argus daily newspaper, which their own papers compete against from across the Mississippi River into Illinois.

“The choice of selling this property after a half-century was a difficult, but necessary move,” said Small Newspaper Group President Len R. Small. “It has been a great journey under the leadership of Gerald J. Taylor, whose storied career includes the launching of the Sunday edition, the purchase of the Rock Island Argus, the conversion to morning delivery and the founding of QCOnline.com at the beginning of the digital age.”

“We will miss our associates and the opportunity to work with them for this community,” he said. “We wish them and the new owners well.”

The Small Newspaper Group still owns three other daily newspapers and several magazines in the states of Illinois and Minnesota.

Dirks, VanEssen & Murray represented the seller, and has been involved in many of the other newspaper sales TNM has mentioned recently, as well. If you know M&A, you know it has been a good year so far for the firm.

We are still awaiting word on whether tronc will pick up the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Reader from Wrapports, or whether a rich local will decide to spend part of their inheritance on a new plaything. (Robert Feder is reporting that Edwin Eisendrath is leading a group, including the Chicago Federation of Labor, in a $15 million bid for the Sun-Times. But if tronc really wants to get rid of the Sun-Times, and pick up the Reader, they should be able to beat off this bid.)

Here is the announcement from Lee Enterprises:

DAVENPORT, Iowa — June 19, 2017 – Lee Enterprises, Incorporated, a major provider of local news, information and advertising in 49 markets, announced today an agreement to purchase the assets of the Dispatch-Argus, including QCOnline.com and related publications serving Moline, Rock Island and dozens of other communities in western Illinois.

The purchase price is $7.15 million, including an adjustment for working capital. The sale is expected to close later this month.

“The Dispatch-Argus is a perfect strategic fit for Lee,” said Lee President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mowbray. “It is adjacent to two of our Iowa enterprises, in Davenport and Muscatine, so this will expand our audiences and create additional synergy opportunities. We expect the acquisition to provide immediate value, accretive to both earnings and free cash flow.”

The Dispatch-Argus publishes seven mornings a week, with a combined average daily circulation of more than 25,000. It is owned by the Small Newspaper Group, based in Kankakee, IL.

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