Local Publisher ECM Agrees to Buy Sun Newspapers

Negotiations with Sun Newspapers' parent company, Dallas-based American Community Newspapers II, are ongoing-but Coon Rapids-based ECM hopes there will be a signed agreement by the end of the year.

ECM Publishers-a Coon Rapids-based media company-has signed a letter of intent to acquire Minnesota Sun newspapers and shoppers from Dallas-based American Community Newspapers II.

ECM said that American Community Newspapers has accepted the letter, but terms of the deal are still being negotiated. ECM President Marge Winkelman said she hopes there will be a signed agreement by the end of 2011.

“Opportunities of this magnitude rarely happen . . .” Winkelman said in a statement.

Former Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen founded ECM in 1976 when he bought competing weekly newspapers in Princeton and combined them into the Princeton Union Eagle. Over the past 35 years, ECM has grown from that single weekly newspaper to a company that delivers 21 publications to more than 300,000 Minnesota homes.

Both ECM and the Sun Newspaper Group are comprised of newspapers, shoppers, and Web sites. ECM publishes 15 newspapers and six shoppers that have total weekly circulation of 155,000 and 191,000, respectively. Meanwhile, the Sun Group publishes 32 suburban newspapers and two shoppers that have total weekly circulation of 357,000 and 38,000, respectively.

ECM Web sites attract 1 million page views monthly, and the Sun Group's Web sites garner 461,000 page views each month.

“This potential combination promises vital hometown journalism for scores of suburban communities,” ECM Chairman and CEO Julian Andersen said in a statement. “Both of these newspaper groups are staffed and led by talented and effective associates, who will bring vim and vigor to the opportunities and responsibilities of a larger media enterprise.”

Jeffrey Coolman, vice president and group publisher for Minnesota Sun Newspapers, added that the merger will “create one of the strongest community newspaper groups in the region” and said that it will spur opportunities to grow market share and develop new print and digital products.

According to the Star Tribune, it's not clear whether employee headcount would be affected either by economies of scale or circulation overlap following the merger. ECM, which has a commercial printing plant and delivery fleet, reportedly employs 385-and the Sun newspapers reportedly employ 135.

American Community Newspapers II was formed in June 2009 just before it bought the assets of the Minnesota Sun newspapers' former parent company-American Community Newspapers, LLC, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier that year.