Simons family selling Journal-World to Ogden Newspapers, Inc.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Lawrence Journal-World News Center, 645 New Hampshire, is pictured in this photo from December 2014. The Simons family of Lawrence, which has owned the paper for 125 years, is in the process of selling the paper to Ogden Newspapers Inc., a family-owned company based in Wheeling, W.Va. The newspaper is expected to remain in the News Center as part of an agreement with the Simons family.

Nearly 125 years of Lawrence newspaper history will end later this year when the Simons family, owner of the Journal-World, completes the paper’s sale to Ogden Newspapers Inc., a family-owned company based in Wheeling, W.Va.

The pending transaction was announced to Journal-World department leaders Friday morning by Dolph C. Simons Jr., editor of the Journal-World and chairman of The World Company, which owns the newspaper. His sons, Dan, president of World’s digital division, and Dolph III, president of its newspapers division, took part in the session, after which the three leaders met with all staff members to tell them of the company’s plan.

“In today’s business environment it is becoming increasingly difficult for a stand-alone, family-owned daily newspaper to compete and provide the product owners desire,” said Dolph Simons Jr. “This being the case and in the best interests of Lawrence, Journal-World readers and our employees, Journal-World owners have decided to sell the Journal-World to the Ogden Nutting family, owners of Ogden Newspapers, Inc.”

Added Dan Simons, “To say this has been a tough decision is an understatement. Every day I look at a photo in my office of my father, grandfather and great-grandfather who led this company for 125 years. I am happy that the new owners are a 126-year-old, family-owned company steeped in great journalism history. The size of their corporation can shoulder the cost for the continuation of honest and accurate journalism.”

In addition to the Journal-World, the sale includes The World Company’s other media assets: weekly newspapers in Shawnee and Tonganoxie; more than a dozen websites including, and; and Sunflower Publishing, the company’s niche publications division. The sale does not include the company’s real estate; the newspaper is expected to remain in its offices at 645 New Hampshire St. under a lease is negotiated as part of the transaction.

Financial terms were not announced. The transaction is expected to close before the end of the third quarter, said Owen Van Essen, president of Dirks, Van Essen and Murray of Santa Fe, N.M., the newspaper merger and acquisition firm representing the Simons family in the sale.

The sale will bring to an end the Simons family’s storied history with newspaper publishing in Lawrence, which began in 1891 when Wilford Collins Simons came to Lawrence and acquired The Lawrence Record. W.C. Simons launched the Lawrence Journal on March 2, 1892, acquired the Lawrence World in 1905 and merged the Journal and World in 1911. W.C. Simons led the paper from 1891 to 1944, followed by his son, Dolph Simons Sr., who was publisher from 1944 to 1962 and editor from 1950 to 1979. Dolph Sr. was followed by his son, Dolph Jr., who served as publisher of the Journal-World from 1962 to 2004, editor of the Journal-World from 1978 to present, and president of The World Company from 1969 to 2004. His sons, Dolph III and Dan, continued the family leadership of the company.

Dolph Simons III said Ogden is acquiring a talented staff.

“We have been consistently proud over the years of the Journal-World and with all those with whom we have worked,” he said. “The strong work ethic was probably set by my great-grandfather and grandfather — typical hardworking Kansans — and it has carried through to today with an excellent, dedicated staff. So many of them are the best in the business, not just in Lawrence, but throughout the industry.

“Going forward, we have the greatest confidence in the leadership and excellence that will come with the Nutting ownership. They, too, are a family operation and are highly successful in all their endeavors. We know that Lawrence and the surrounding communities will continue to receive an award-winning news product.”

Ogden Newspapers, Inc., is a diversified media company that publishes 40 daily newspapers, several magazines, weekly newspapers and shoppers in 14 states stretching from Jamestown, N.Y., to Maui, Hawaii. Most of the company’s newspapers are based in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ogden owns eight newspapers west of the Mississippi, including three in Iowa, three in Minnesota, one in North Dakota and one in Hawaii.

“We are pleased and proud to have been selected to be the successor owners of the Journal-World,” Ogden Newspapers President and CEO Robert Nutting said. “For many years, the Simons family has been an excellent steward of the Journal-World, known for their record of innovation and their deep commitment to Lawrence.”

Ogden Newspaper’s roots extend to 1890 when H.C. Ogden launched the Wheeling News and began acquiring newspapers. Ogden’s great grandsons, Robert Nutting and Vice President William “Bill” Nutting, now lead the company.

In addition to newspapers, Ogden’s holdings include Topeka-based Ogden Publications, publisher of Mother Earth News, Utne Reader and other niche magazines; Capper’s Insurance Services, also of Topeka; Yellow Pages directories; and Seven Springs Mountain and Hidden Valley ski resorts in Pennsylvania.

The Nutting family also has a majority interest in Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates. Robert Nutting serves as principle owner and chairman of the board for the team.

“We believe that newspapers like the Journal-World and its related publications, such as Lawrence Magazine and, provide exceptional value both in print and online with trustworthy news reporting and effective advertising,” Robert Nutting said. “We intend to continue in this tradition of service to Lawrence, the University (of Kansas) and the state.”

Separately, the Simons family also announced the pending sale of WorldWest Limited Liability Company’s newspaper assets. The World Company and WorldWest share some common ownership.

The WorldWest transactions include the sale of Steamboat Pilot & Today and Craig Daily Press in Colorado to Nevada-based Swift Communications and the sale of The Payson Roundup in Arizona to White Mountain Publishing, a division of Kramer Publications.

Those transactions are expected to be completed this summer.

“I am proud of the record of involvement the Journal-World has maintained, the focus on important conversations, holding elected representatives accountable, supporting business, education and other important matters for the citizens of Lawrence for a very long time,” Dan Simons said. “I know we have performed honorably; now it is time to pass on the baton.”