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Queens Tribune parent sells four weekly papers

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It has been a busy few months for News Communications Inc., the owners of the Queens Tribune.

Last week the company sold its four Manhattan weeklies after selling its Long Island papers in May. The media concern also has put a new chief executive officer in place and been delisted from Nasdaq.

The four Manhattan free weeklies — the Westsider, Our Town, West Side Spirit and the Chelsea Clinton News — were acquired last week by a group headed by Thomas Allon, who started out as the editor of the West Side Spirit in 1986.

The price tag on the deal was not disclosed.

“I have no interest in commenting,” said Jimmy Finkelstein, CEO of News Communications, when questioned about the sale. “We have been misquoted in the past. There is no comment.”

Allon became publisher of the West Side Spirit in 1991 and took over as publisher of Our Town in 1992. He was able to buy the group with backing from ISIS Ventures.

News Communications was formed in 1986 when Finkelstein’s father, Jerry, started snapping up weekly papers in the city. He bought the Queens Tribune from U.S. Rep, Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) in 1989

Jimmy Finkelstein was named chief executive officer of News Communications in the beginning of June. He took over the post from his father.

The company still owns the Queens Tribune; the Hill, a Washington weekly that covers Congress; and Dan’s Papers, which covers the arts and entertainment in the Hamptons.

News Communicat­ions’ second-quarter earnings were scheduled to be released this week.

In the opening quarter, the company reported a net loss of $1.37 million, up from a red ink figure of $547,305 in the first quarter last year. Revenues fell 15.3 percent to $3.34 million from $3.94 million in the January-March quarter of 2000.

In the beginning of May, News Communications sold its eight Long Island weekly newspapers, which had been consolidated from 12 papers published under The Record banner, to the Herald Community Newspapers. In its first-quarter earnings report, News Communications said it received $275,000 in cash from the sale.

On May 15, the Nasdaq Listing Qualifications Panel removed News Communications Inc. from its SmallCap Market because the company did not meet the criteria to remain listed when its stock dropped under $1 a share

Last year he company sold its weekly newspapers in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

“We bought these papers because we think these are valuable publications that have been undermarke­ted,” said Allon about the Manhattan weeklies purchase. “We were very profitable last year.”

He said the company plans to change the look of the papers and make them more community-oriented. Allon said next week they will have a completely redesigned front with four stories — two news articles, one feature and one editorial leading off the front page.

The new company, he said, will be able to do different things as an independent firm that were impossible while the papers were a part of a parent company, he said.

“While neighborhoods change, mayors come and go, dot.coms go boom and then bust, newspapers like Our Town and the West Side Spirit endure and hold together our great urban communities,” Allon said.

“In a world that is becoming more fragmented, we are the glue that connects the readers and store owners with the neighborhoods where they live and work.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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