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Eyeing Governor's Mansion, Salango selling HD Media stake

A Democrat running for governor said Tuesday he is selling off his stake in the parent company of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Ben Salango, also an attorney and Kanawha County commissioner, said he is in the process of selling his shares in HD Media to other investors in the company. He said he started talking to other investors about divesting himself from the company before he entered the race.

Maintaining his ownership, he said, wouldn’t be fair to journalists at HD Media outlets, the public or other candidates opposing him in the race.

“When I and a group of other investors bought the Charleston Gazette-Mail out of bankruptcy, it was to save jobs and preserve the integrity of local journalism,” he said.

On Thursday, Salango filed paperwork to begin a gubernatorial bid and hosted a launch event where he offered several lines of criticism against incumbent Gov. Jim Justice.

The state Republican Party issued a news release the next day demanding that HD Media outlets disclose Salango’s ownership stake in the papers. The Gazette-Mail’s coverage of Salango’s announcement included such a disclosure.

Justice spokesman Richard Cullen invoked Salango’s ownership Saturday on Justice’s behalf in response to inquiries by the Gazette-Mail and ProPublica about some of Justice’s business activities.

“Over the past several months, the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s constant attack on me has been bewildering, but now we know why: One of its substantial owners, a trial lawyer, was gearing up to run against me for the office of governor of this great state,” he said.

Salango is not a “substantial” owner. He owns less than 5 percent of the company, according to a disclosure the Kanawha County Commission made to the West Virginia Ethics Commission in order to continue purchasing legal ads from the Gazette-Mail. He referred to himself as a “minority investor” Tuesday and confirmed the figure presented in the ethics filing.

After the Gazette-Mail declared bankruptcy, HD Media became the successful bidder to purchase the newspaper in March 2018 for a price just under $11.5 million.

The company is comprised of a group of local investors organized under Doug Reynolds, managing partner of HD Media. Reynolds served in the House of Delegates as a Democrat before an unsuccessful run for state attorney general in 2016. It owns The Herald-Dispatch, the Wayne County News and other outlets around the state.

Staff writer Ken Ward Jr.

contributed to this report.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at

jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow

@jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

Funerals for Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Abner, James - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Black, Thomas - 11 a.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Bowcott, Doris - 1 p.m., Mt. Union Church, Pliny.

Dolin, Clayton - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Harper, Brandon - 1 p.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Hively, Thomas - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Kirk, William - 8 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

McDonald, Jeremy - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Rollins, Melvin - 1 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Evans.

Short, Elizabeth - 1:30 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Simpkins, Anthony - 1 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Stone Jr., Darrell - 2 p.m., Smith Cemetery, Leon.

Thorne, Thomas - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Mount Hope.