The Free Lance-Star building in Fredericksburg

Sandton Closes Deal, Names Interim FLS Publisher

by | Dec 13, 2014 | Business

By Susan Larson

Gene M. Carr has been hired as interim CEO and publisher of The Free Lance-Star, Sandton Capital Partners announced Thursday after closing on their purchase of the publishing company.

Additionally, all current FLS staff were offered their jobs at the same salary and with similar benefits, said Robert Orr, Sandton Capital Partners managing director.

“Former Publisher Nick Cadwallender and former Associate Publisher Florence Barnick, members of the Rowe family, were offered jobs with the new company but did not stay,” Lindley Estes wrote. “Cadwallender said he could not work for the new owners because of litigation involving other issues.”
Gene M. Carr
Interim CEO and Publisher Gene Carr comes to Fredericksburg from Leesburg, where he operated “a consulting practice specializing in community media businesses,” Sandton’s press release said.  The company name was not provided.

Carr is former CEO of American Community Newspapers, LLC (ACN).  ACN filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, and was purchased that same year for $32 million by American Community Newspapers II, Caitlin Gibson reported in the Washington Post.

Carr’s past experience includes tenure as interim Southwest Region vice president of Freedom Communications, and publisher of two of that Los Angeles based company’s newspapers:  The Monitor (McAllen, Texas) and The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Co,), according to Valley Morning Star.

Carr also served as CEO of the Southern Division of Brown Publishing in Dayton, Ohio, publisher of daily and weekly community newspapers, and as vice president, sales and marketing, for Trinity Holdings in Pittsburgh, Pa, before it was purchased by Westminister holdings.
Business As Usual
“The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. of Fredericksburg, VA, under its new ownership, does not anticipate any material change to the day-to-day operating activity,” Sandton said in its press release.

“For you, the readers and listeners, you can expect the same high standards of quality delivered reliably to your doorstep, Internet device and radio every day,” Orr wrote in the June 20 edition of the paper.

“As long as we can continue to meet the needs of this community, there will be a viable business model for newspaper and radio. We are confident that, with the help and input of The Free Lance–Star employees, advertisers, readers and listeners, we can continue to do that.”
Sandton Capital Partners
Sandton, a New York based company, describes itself as, “composed of professionals focused on making credit investments throughout the United States and Western Europe. Our firm was founded in 2009 and has since acquired over $1 billion in loans.”  One of those loans was the Free Lance-Star Company’s $38 million outstanding balance to BB&T.  Sandton purchased that loan in the summer of 2013.

The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan 23, 2014.   Nine companies participated in the May 2014 auction for its assets, according to FLS attorney Lynn Tavenner.  Sandton  submitted the winning bid of $30.2 million.

The sale of the Free Lance-Star ended the Rowe family’s 130-year tenure as owners of the media company.

Related Stories on Fredericksburg.Today
Sandton Capital Top Bidder for Free Lance-Star
Sandton May Credit Bid on Free Lance-Star Assets, Judge Rules
Free Lance-Star Publishing Company Advances Toward Sale of Assets
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