BARRE – For the second time in 18 months, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and Rutland Herald are changing hands. The latest sale of the sister papers – from Vermont Community Media to the Sample News Group – is expected to be finalized before the end of the month, the current owners announced today. Terms of the pending sale were not disclosed, and most employees at both newspapers were notified this afternoon of the switch in ownership. Some got the news in person; others by email as Vermont Community Media – a partnership of businessmen Chip Harris of New Hampshire and Reade Brower of Maine – sought to provide employees in both locations with a heads-up about the decision to sell the once-family-run newspapers they purchased in September 2016. Rob Mitchell, general manager of the Herald, delivered the news in Rutland, and Shawn Stabell, general manager of The Times Argus, did the same in Barre. Neither could answer many questions, though both confirmed the papers will be sold to the Sample News Group, which owns and operates more than 70 daily and weekly newspapers in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and around New England. That list includes the Eagle-Times of Claremont, New Hampshire, and the Message For The Week in Chester. The pending sale is said to include the Herald, The Times Argus, two weekly newspapers and associated websites now operated by Vermont Community Media. Mitchell, whose family owned both papers for decades before selling to Vermont Community Media in 2016, said he learned early this week the papers would be sold again. Mitchell said it wasn’t a complete surprise to him because he had known of the potential sale for about a month. He also said this sale feels different, and not just because his family isn’t parting with a prized asset. “I think the last time we went through a sale it was a … traumatic experience because of where we were (financially) prior to the sale,” Mitchell said. “This time … I’m looking forward to the opportunity.” In a prepared news release, Harris, co-founder and former owner of Upper Valley Press in North Haverhill, New Hampshire, and Brower, who owns four daily newspapers and multiple weeklies in Maine, claimed credit for stepping in and stabilizing the newspapers they are selling. Harris said some of that credit belongs to employees of both newspapers. “We want to thank the staff of the Herald and Times Argus for their hard work in restoring the newspapers’ stability and solid financial condition,” he said. “Their efforts ensured and continue to ensure that the papers will carry on their service to the communities.” Brower said the Herald and The Times Argus could benefit from the proximity of Sample News Group’s nearby newspapers. “There is opportunity for the Vermont papers by finding synergies in combining forces with Claremont.” he said. “We had a good run with these papers, and we’re happy to leave them in good shape and in good hands.” Mitchell echoed that sentiment. “There’s a chance to share resources in a way that really wasn’t possible (with Brower’s newspapers) in Maine,” he said. “From a business standpoint, it makes sense because the Eagle-Times is a contiguous area.” “We’re so very thankful to have had Reade's and Chip’s help in working toward a better financial footing for our newspapers,” said Stabell, the general manager at The Times Argus. “To be sure, there is still more to be done. We will serve our communities as we always have, through dogged reporting, and delivering the content our readers have come to trust.” Though the bulk of Sample News Group’s publications – 49 of 75 – are located in Pennsylvania, it operates 14 newspapers in New England. That includes two daily papers in New Hampshire – the Eagle-Times and The Citizen – and another two – The Times Record and The Journal Tribune – in Maine. Mitchell, whose family bought the Herald in 1947, The Times Argus in 1964 and sold both in 2016, said he expected soon-to-be-owner George Sample planned to visit both newspapers early next month. Mitchell said he spoke briefly with Sample before meeting with his employees in Rutland and liked what he heard. “I’m feeling good about it,” he said. “The Samples are long-time newspaper owners and I count that as a good thing.” “It's as important as it has ever been to support our trusted sources of local journalism. Sample News Group’s experience will play such a significant role in our future success.” Stabell said. “It’s an exciting change.” The Rutland Herald began publication in 1794, making it one of the oldest continuously published newspapers in the country. The Times Argus began publishing as the Argus & Patriot in 1863 before going daily in 1897 – the same year the Barre Daily Times was founded. The Times acquired the Argus in 1959, creating the merged paper Mitchell’s family, which already owned the Herald, purchased in 1964.

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