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Sun chain’s owner sells Ohio titles; portent for Minnesota?

American Community Newspapers — the financially stressed chain that owns Minnesota’s Sun Newspapers — has sold its Columbus operations to the local daily. A portent of things to come here?

ACN, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, is in just four markets (Dallas, D.C., Columbus, and the Twin Cities), so selling one operation is a big deal. As recently as August, the chain laid off more than a dozen workers nationwide, including at least a couple of layoffs and unfilled positions in Minnesota. Group publisher Jeff Coolman was not immediately available for comment, but I’ll update this item if I hear from him.

At first blush, there are some differences between the Columbus operations and Minnesota. In Ohio, the daily has its own community papers, which is not the case here. (ACN brags it kicked the Dispatch’s butt among upper-income readers.)

Also, the Ohio cluster includes an alt-weekly, a monthly, a business title, and a bride magazine. The local Sun operation has none of those, though it does have 10 more community papers.

Potential local Sun suitors would include community-paper competitor ECM Publishers, the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, among others. Again, I have no indication anything is going down, or that any of these entities view Sun as an attractive acquisition. I’m putting the calls out and will update if anyone tells me anything definitive.

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