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Majority of Gazette-Mail employees to keep jobs in HD Media purchase

Charleston Newspapers building

HD Media made employment offers to 168 Gazette-Mail employees Monday.

The majority of Charleston Gazette-Mail employees will keep their jobs amid HD Media’s purchase of the newspaper, employees learned Monday.

A total of 168 people received employment offers from HD Media Monday, according to Jim Heady, who will become the publisher of West Virginia’s largest newspaper April 1.

Eleven people who filled out applications did not receive employment offers. Twenty-nine positions that represent employees who did not apply for jobs with HD Media or positions that were previously vacant will not be filled as of now.

Monday was the deadline for HD Media to notify Charleston Newspapers which employees company officials intended to keep, according to the purchase agreement filed in bankruptcy court March 12. The order required HD Media officials to give the notification five days prior to the closing date of the sale.

Heady did not indicate in which departments the 11 people who lost their jobs worked.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Volk approved the sale of the Gazette-Mail to HD Media on March 12, one day after the Huntington-based company became the successful bidder to purchase West Virginia’s largest newspaper.

HD Media is purchasing the newspaper for approximately $11.48 million, according to court records.

Doug Reynolds, a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates who was the Democratic candidate for West Virginia attorney general in 2016, is the managing partner of HD Media.

Reynolds said Monday he was happy there were significantly fewer layoffs than what it appeared might happen in January, when the owners of the Gazette-Mail issued WARN notices to employees, telling them they could be laid off.

“We want to try to put together the best team we can to run this paper at a profit,” Reynolds said. “I would hope that we can grow this business and do a lot more hiring than laying people off. That’s the goal.”

Reynolds said he and company officials plan to sign paperwork to close the sale Saturday.

The Chilton family owned The Charleston Gazette for decades and, since 2015, has owned the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the combined Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail. Susan Chilton Shumate is the current publisher of the newspaper, and her husband, Norman “Trip” Shumate, is the president and chief financial officer of Charleston Newspapers.

Reynolds and Heady have said they are eager to streamline operations at the Gazette-Mail with those at HD Media.

HD Media is the parent company of The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington and five other newspapers in Southern West Virginia: The Wayne County News, the Logan Banner, Williamson Daily News, the Coal Valley News and The Pineville Independent Herald.

Brian Jarvis, president of NCWV Media, which publishes The State Journal and The Exponent-Telegram, also is an investor in HD Media’s purchase of the Gazette-Mail.

In an interview on WVNews.com, Jarvis said the partnership would “enable a network of quality journalists to provide in-depth statewide coverage on important issues while still delivering the local content that is vital to community growth and development.”

HD Media became the preferred bidder to purchase the Gazette-Mail on March 8, after Ogden Newspapers officials declined to further bid on the newspaper. Ogden was the highest bidder when the owners of the Gazette-Mail filed for bankruptcy Jan. 30, referred to legally as the “stalking horse” bidder.

Ogden’s bid was $10.9 million, and Ogden CEO Bob Nutting said the company wouldn’t increase its initial bid because it was “full and fair,” according to a letter Nutting sent to attorneys for Charleston Newspapers.

Reach Lacie Pierson at lacie.pierson@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @laciepierson on Twitter.

Funerals for Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ellis, Walter - 1 p.m., West Logan Missionary Baptist Church.

Evans, Robert - 2 p.m., Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

Hess, Steven - 6 p.m., Grace Church of the Nazarene, South Charleston.

Holmes, Buddy - 2 p.m., Elizabeth Baptist Church, Charleston.

Jeffrey Jr., Algie - 2 p.m., Stevens Chapel Methodist Church, Lake.

Mace, Elma - 2 p.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation Inc., Arnoldsburg.

Meadows II, Richard - 2 p.m., Central Christian Church, Huntington.

Messinger, John - 2 p.m., Davis Funeral Home, Clarksburg.

Reynolds, Gladys - 1 p.m., Taylor-Vandale Funeral Home, Spencer.

Smith, Rosie - 2 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

Sykes, Teresa - 2 p.m., Winfield Church of the Nazarene.