Sun suburban newspaper chain goes back to the future

Sun Newspapers, the troubled suburban chain that emerged from bankruptcy this summer, has once again named Jeff Coolman as publisher of its 42-paper local group.

Man, you’d think Sun’s problems were someone else’s doing: Gene Carr, CEO of Sun’s parent, American Community Newspapers, survived bankruptcy, and now Coolman, who departed in late 2007, is back in charge locally.

In a memo (below) sent Tuesday to employees, Carr bragged that Coolman “led the MN division to industry leading revenue growth.”

However, the CEO of what is now American Community Newspapers II put a slightly different spin on the achievement in a November 2007 release announcing Coolman’s departure:

“Jeff Coolman has certainly been a great contributor to the company over the years and we wish him the best. Jeff and I have worked together since 1999 and he has truly produced some of the highest revenue growth within the newspaper industry during his tenure here in Minnesota. At the same time, we are focused on building a stronger management team to capitalize on the long-term growth of our Minnesota operations.”

It didn’t really work out that way. In March 2008, Bob Cole was recruited from rival ECM Publishers, where he had been marketing manager. However, Cole’s stint as Minnesota group publisher lasted less than 18 months, during which Sun slashed its news space, eliminated papers, fired its photography staff and insisted reporters do lightly watched videocasts.

Can the old management make Sun shine with reduced debt? My inside sources are universally dismayed, but there’s been no shortage of pessimism since Carr survived (and no shortage of disgusted workers). The company has refused my requests for comments since I called their financial structure “worse than the Strib’s” in July 2008; the company filed bankruptcy in April. But my email box is always open, folks.

Here’s the memo:

To: All Minnesota ACN II Staff
From: Gene Carr
Date: October 6, 2009
Subject: ACNII Minnesota-Group Publisher Announcement

I am pleased to announce that Jeff Coolman will rejoin the Company on Monday October 12, 2009 as the Group Publisher of our 42 Newspapers in Minnesota.

Jeff originally served as the Director of Sales and Marketing from 2001 to 2005. In 2005, Jeff assumed the responsibilities as the Group Publisher of MN and also served as the VP of Sales for all of American Community Newspapers publications and web sites.

During Jeff’s tenure as Group Publisher he led the MN division to industry leading revenue growth. After leaving the company in December of 2007, Jeff retired for a period of time and then founded the Coolman Agency. Jeff is eager to rejoin the Company and to help lead us through the many challenges that we face while understanding that we have many opportunities to better serve our customers and to grow our business. “I am excited at the opportunity to once again lead one of the best news and advertising teams in the Twin Cities as the Group Publisher in MN. I plan on continuing to deliver residents robust and timely local news through our website and newspapers with the continued advertising support of local businesses in the community.” Jeff will be responsible for all our MN operations and all departments in this award winning division.

Roger Will, who has served as the interim Group Publisher of our Minnesota division, will work with Jeff during the next 30 days to insure a smooth and successful transition. Roger will then return to his full-time duties as the Company’s New Media Internet Director. Not only has Roger done an outstanding job in Minnesota, but he has simultaneously operated the MN division and our internet strategy. We appreciate his dedication

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Roy Johansen on 10/09/2009 - 02:27 pm.

    We don’t call it The Richfield Sun or The Richfield Paper anymore. Considering that it is now down to one section instead of three, we have taken to calling it The Richfield Pamphlet. If it wasn’t for senior and religion news, it would literally be The Richfield Paper as in one sheet of paper.

  2. Submitted by Alistair MacLean on 10/09/2009 - 04:58 pm.

    The castle page returns to serve the Prince of Darkness. A dark cloud falls of the community journalism land once more.

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