Forum Communications Co. announced Thursday it has entered into an agreement to purchase the Brainerd Dispatch from Morris Communications Co. The deal is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
Bill Marcil Jr., who was recently named the new president/chief executive officer of the Fargo, N.D.-based firm told Dispatch employees Thursday that Forum Communications initiated discussions of a possible sale. His father, William C. Marcil, chairman of Forum Communications, said he originally tried to buy the Dispatch in 1975 when it was owned by the McCollough family.
“We sought you out,” Marcil Jr. told the Brainerd employees. “You fit our footprint like a glove.”
The sale includes the Echo Journal weekly newspaper.
Forum Communications owns 36 newspapers throughout the Midwest. The papers, he said, are mostly small dailies and weeklies. The Forum holdings also include four ABC television affiliates in North Dakota, an AM radio station in Fargo and commercial printing businesses. Forum Communications employs about 1,800 people.
Among the Forum’s properties are The Forum of Fargo, N.D., The Pioneer of Bemidji, the Duluth News Tribune, Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun, the Superior Telegram, the West Central Tribune of Willmar, the Daily Globe of Worthington and the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
The media company has a news bureau with about 180 employees.
A fifth-generation newspaper publisher, Marcil Jr., 49, said he has vacationed in the Brainerd area, both at Grand View Lodge and Brainerd International Raceway.
“It makes total sense,” he said of the acquisition.
The philosophy behind Forum Communication’s recent growth — during a period other newspaper companies found to be challenging — includes the concept of clustering properties and working off individual units’ strengths.
“Run good newspapers, watch expenses and put pressure on the revenue side,” he said of Forum Communications’ general philosophy.
Marcil Jr. said that the media firm has continued to grow and has remained successful.
“It’s a good solid business,” he said.
Transforming communities through news stories is one of the aspects of his newspaper career that he enjoys the most. He used as an example those people whose lives were changed because of vital information they learned through the newspapers.
In his 23 years with Forum Communications, Marcil Jr. said he has worked in just about every department. His family’s roots in newspaper publishing go back to 1917, when his ancestor, Norman B. Black, purchased the Fargo Forum for $100,000.
He said he didn’t envision any changes that Brainerd Dispatch readers would notice, describing the publication as a “great, quality newspaper.”
Before his most recent appointment Marcil Jr. was chief operating officer and executive vice president for Forum Communications Co. as well as publisher of The Forum. He will continue as publisher of The Forum. His other duties officially change on Jan. 1.
Tim Bogenschutz, publisher of the Brainerd Dispatch, described the reaction of his employees to the news of the impending sale as positive and enthusiastic. He said Dispatch employees have worked with Forum Communications Co. personnel through the Minnesota Newspaper Association and appreciate the quality of their leadership. A mutual respect exists between the two newspaper groups, he said.
“The bottom line is if we were going to be sold to anybody it couldn’t be a better fit,” Bogenschutz said.
The Brainerd Weekly Dispatch was founded on Dec. 22, 1881, and became a daily after it was purchased by N.H. Ingersoll and F.W. Weiland in 1883.
In 1931, Weiland, then the sole owner, sold the Dispatch to W.D. Junkin and Henry F. McCollough, in partnership with the W.J. McGiffin Newspaper Co. McCollough became publisher after Junkin’s death in 1941.
The McCollough family purchased the interest owned by the McGiffin Co. and in 1984 they sold the paper to Stauffer Communications of Topeka, Kan. Morris Communications Co. acquired Stauffer Communications in 1995. In May of 2004 the paper changed its name to the Brainerd Dispatch.