Bill Horner III, the former publisher of the Sanford Herald, has joined Lee-Moore Capital chairman, president and CEO Kirk Bradley and Bold Construction owner Chris Ehrenfeld in purchasing two Chatham County weekly newspapers — the Chatham News and the Chatham Record — the papers announced on their website today.
The trio have purchased the paper under the name Chatham Media Group LLC. The transaction is expected to close on Nov. 8.
Horner was the third-generation publisher of the Sanford Herald from 1998 to 2016. His father, William E. Horner Jr., ran the paper from 1991 to 1998, and his grandfather, WE. Horner Sr., from the newspaper’s inception in the 1930s through 1991.
Bradley, who is also part of a joint venture overseeing a 350-acre, $800 million residential and business development in the massive Chatham Park subdivision near Pittsboro, was also chairman of the Lee County 2nd Century project in Sanford from 2007 to 2014. Ehrenfeld also owns several businesses in Chapel Hill and was chair of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors. He is also president of the Central Carolina Community College Foundation, CCCC’s main fundraising arm.
They’ve bought the paper from Mary Little Resch, the now former publisher and editor of the newspapers who took over in 2016 after the death of her husband, Alan, who was publisher and editor for over 40 years. The Chatham News primarily serves the Siler City area, while the Chatham Record serves Pittsboro. The papers have been run by the Resch family since 1939 — not too long after the Horner family launched the Herald.
So … what does this mean?
The news could have a big impact on Sanford and Lee County.
Taking Horner’s and Bradley’s history with Chatham County’s neighbor to the south into consideration, it’s possible the Chatham paper — whatever form it takes and whatever name it becomes, if it changes at all — will provide coverage of Lee County news. Again, that’s possible … we’re only speculating. It could be tempting to provide competition to the Herald (hell, we should know!), but it would take a much larger staff and more resources.
What’s more likely, however, is that these papers will become a valuable marketing tool — we mean that with all due respect — for the Chatham Park development, the subdivision that is expected to bring in more than 60,000 additional people to Pittsboro over the next decade (Bradley and Ehrenfeld are heavily involved). Aside from the two weekly papers, Chatham County is woefully underserved when it comes to local media. Horner and crew are getting in at the right time (if you’re one to believe newspapers can still exist and make a profit these days … but that’s for another discussion).
We also expect the acquisition will mean a better website. At least, we hope. The Herald has been handcuffed by a paywall at its site, and the current Chatham News & Record site just pastes its pages in jpeg form, with very few interactive tools. If this new media source starts delivering instant online news, it will provide something to Chatham County residents it just hasn’t had.
It also means we at The Rant are very intrigued by all of this. Fun times!