Publisher Russell Briley and two partners are buying The Signal newspaper, giving it local ownership for the first time in 37 years.
The Signal announced the transaction on its website Tuesday evening. Rumored for weeks, the ownership change is expected to take effect Jan. 1.
According to The Signal, Briley said longtime owner Charles Morris’ Georgia-based company, Morris Multimedia, approached him several months ago and asked whether he was interested in buying the paper.
The Signal said Briley, 60, of Castaic, and two colleagues will be “equal partners in the new ownership structure.”
Charles F. Champion, described as a “seasoned newspaper executive,” will become president and publisher, while Champion’s “longtime business partner” Gary Sproule will serve as chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
Briley’s role will be executive vice president of “community relations and audience development.”
Champion reportedly said the new partnership, Paladin Multi-Media Group Inc., “intends to retain most of The Signal’s current employees.”
The Signal didn’t release a sales price, and Briley couldn’t be reached Tuesday evening by phone.
Champion has been in the publishing business since the 1970s. An Internet search listed him in a number of management and executive positions with the Daily News of Los Angeles, the Orange County Register, the Sun-Times Co. of Chicago and Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
More recently, Champion and Sproule founded YouBet.com, a leading provider of information technology services related to online parimutuel horse race wagering. According to The Signal, they built it “into a billion-dollar business that was eventually acquired by Churchill Downs.”
Sproul’s LinkedIn profile shows current employment with two financial services firms, CFOPlans and Paladin Capital Partners. Previous employers include Mobile Messenger, specializing in the marketing of content to mobile telephone devices, and he served as CFO of Disney Interactive Studios and COO of WhatsHotNow.com and Unocal’s 76 Retail Products Co.
More familiar to Santa Clarita Valley residents is Briley, a 35-year veteran of the Daily News of Los Angeles. After serving as circulation manager for the Ventura County Star, he joined The Signal in September 2012 and worked his way up from director of product sales to general manager in August 2013 and finally publisher.
Briley has been heavily involved with the Castaic community through service on the Castaic Area Town Council (1997-2001), the Castaic Chamber board (1998-2001) and the Castaic Lion’s Club. He was named Castaic Man of the Year in 1998.
Joining the three partners on the board of Paladin Multi-Media are Joseph Barletta, former CEO of the Chronicle Co., publishers of the San Francisco Chronicle; Thomas Culligan, consultant, former chief revenue officer of the Washington Times and an executive with the Chicago Tribune; and Robert Brierley, a growth strategy consultant and currently president of Aircuity Inc. in Newton, Mass., The Signal said.
According to The Signal, Charles H. Morris, who founded Morris Multimedia in Savannah, Geo., in 1970, said he is pleased to put the paper in the hands of “people who care deeply about the editorial product and are prepared to help The Signal move to the next level in today’s complex market for media services.”
“Chuck Champion and his team are poised to lead The Signal to a very successful future and we wish them well,” Morris said in a statement.
Morris purchased The Signal in 1978 from longtime publishers and editors Scott and Ruth Newhall, who stayed on with the paper until 1988 when their 10-year noncompete agreement expired. They immediately launched a rival newspaper from an office around the corner on Valencia Boulevard – the thrice-weekly SCV Citizen, which lasted about eight months.
At 37 years, Morris’ ownership has been the longest, surpassing that of the Trueblood family, who owned the paper for 25 years from the late 1930s to early 1960s.
The Signal was founded in Newhall on Feb. 7, 1919, as a weekly. Today it’s published daily from Tuesday to Saturday with updated online content at SignalSCV.com.