Cox selling its N.C. newspapers to Cooke|Cooke Communications acquiring three dailies, 10 nondaily publications

Published 8:14 am Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Contributing Editor

Cox Enterprises is selling three daily and 10 nondaily newspapers in eastern North Carolina to Cooke Communications, a privately held family company led by John Kent Cooke.
Cox Enterprises announced Monday it has reached an agreement to sell The Daily Reflector, The Rocky Mount Telegram and the Daily Advance of Elizabeth City, all daily newspapers. Its nondaily publications being sold include the Beaufort-Hyde News (Belhaven), Bertie-Ledger Advance (Windsor), The Chowan Herald (Edenton), Duplin Times (Kenansville), The Enterprise (Williamston), Farmville Enterprise, Perquimans Weekly (Elizabeth City), Standard Laconic (Snow Hill), Times-Leader (Ayden-Grifton) and Weekly Herald (Robersonville.)
“We are expecting it to close within the next few weeks. We don’t have an exact date,” said Elizabeth Halter, a spokeswoman for Cox Enterprises, about when the sale will be final.
“These papers provide a valuable service to many communities across North Carolina,” said Doug Franklin, an executive vice president of Cox Newspapers, in a press release. “Cox Enterprises began as a family owned newspaper, and we’re confident that the Cooke family will be excellent owners of these papers and continue to foster a strong commitment to the community and advertisers.”
“We will continue the strong tradition of family owned independent newspapers serving these communities of eastern North Carolina. We look forward to working with the talented staffs at these newspapers to continue to provide timely, accurate local news that matters to readers’ lives,” Cooke said in the news release.
The Washington Daily News is printed at the North Carolina Cox/Daily Reflector facilities in Greenville. That relationship began in November 2008, when the Daily News ceased publishing its Monday editions.
“I don’t anticipate any change in the relationship we had with Cox with Cooke taking over,” said Brownie Futrell, publisher and owner of the Daily News, on Monday.
Cooke Communications, a private corporation, owns The Key West Citizen, several weekly newspapers in the Florida Keys and, an Internet publishing business.
In the past, Cooke was a part owner of the Washington Redskins, The Los Angeles Daily News and The Chrysler Building in New York, among other enterprises. He served as executive vice president of the Washington Redskins for 18 years, retiring as president when the family company was liquidated to fund the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Cooke lives in Middleburg, Va.
Cook’s eldest son, John Kent Cooke Jr., will relocate to Greenville and become president of Cooke Communications North Carolina and publisher of The Daily Reflector.
Thomas Kent Cooke, another son of the eldest Cooke, will spend time in Greenville for several weeks as he works with Web sites associated with the North Carolina newspapers. He will reside in Florida, where he will serve as CEO of and become president of Florida Cooke Communications.
In 2008, Cox Enterprises placed its newspaper holdings in eastern North Carolina for sale.
Cox Enterprises continues to seek a buyer for its newspapers in Texas, where it recently sold The Lufkin Daily News and The Daily Sentinel (Nacogdoches). It also plans to complete its sale of The Nickel (Grand Junction, Colo.) and the Waco-Tribune.
Attempts to reach John Kent Cooke Jr. for comment on the sale and his relocation to North Carolina were unsuccessful.