Aspen Times sold to Swift
The Aspen Times is being sold.
Following months of rumors, Michael McVoy and Andy Stone, co-publishers of the Times, announced Wednesday that they have reached an agreement to sell the valley’s oldest business to Swift Newspapers.
Swift is also buying the Times’ sister publication, the Glenwood Independent.
Swift, a family-owned business, has 24 newspapers in Colorado, California, Nevada, Oregon and Nebraska. Swift’s Colorado newspapers include the Greeley Tribune, which was just named the best small daily newspaper in the country by the Newspaper Association of America.
“I admit I’m a little sorry that the Times can’t continue as a locally owned paper,” said Stone, “but given the competitive situation in the valley, we really needed the kind of support we can get from a larger company.
“We looked long and hard to find the best possible new owners for the Times,” Stone continued, “and I am very certain we’ve found them. Swift has a strong commitment to community newspapers that are locally controlled.
“We’re going to continue to run the paper just as we have in the past – if you see any changes, I think they’ll be improvements. And, by the way, the dozen or so dogs that spend every day right here in the Times offices are going to stay.”
In addition to the dogs, Stone noted, he, too, will be staying on, as editor of the Times.
Richard K. Larson, chairman of Swift, met with the staff of the Times and told them that it was the high quality of the newspaper, as much as the quality of the community, that made these acquisitions such an attractive prospect.
Noting that, in addition to the Greeley paper, Swift owns The Vail Daily, the Summit Daily News and four weekly newspapers in Colorado, Larson said, “As involved as we are in the newspapers in this state, it would be impossible not to be aware of the journalistic achievements of The Aspen Times.” He cited the five consecutive General Excellence awards the Times has received from the Colorado Press Association as but one example of these achievements.
He added, “The more important award is the one that is given newspapers like the Times every day by the readers in the community – when they pick up their copy with a measure of confidence that the contents reflect an accurate, fair and reasonably complete picture of public matters. The folks here should be very proud of that accomplishment.”
McVoy and Stone introduced the staff to Mitch Bettis, who will hold the positions of publisher of the Times and general manager of the Glenwood Independent. Martha Cochran will remain the Independent’s publisher. McVoy has agreed to serve as consultant to the company, with particular emphasis on community relations and administration.
Cochran said she is looking forward to the change in ownership. “The involvement of Swift puts the Glenwood Independent in a strong financial position and will make us even more competitive in this market,” she said. “We look forward to the change and appreciate the fact that Swift is a family company with a long-term and successful history of Colorado newspaper ownership.”
Bettis has been publisher of the Craig Daily Press for the last three years. He began his newspaper career as a paper boy in Arkadelphia, Ark., while he was growing up. He began his professional career as a reporter at the Arkadelphia Daily Siftings Herald.
He was ad director at the Southwest Daily Times in Liberal, Kan. and general manager of the Liberal Shopper’s Weekly. He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University and holds a doctorate in education from Oklahoma State University.
Bettis and his wife, Meg, will be moving to the area immediately. She has been a school teacher in Craig and, previously, in Liberal. While in Craig, Mitch Bettis has had a number of community roles, including chairman of the chamber of commerce economic development committee and president of the Independent Life Center, which helps mentally and physically handicapped individuals move into the workplace.
Bettis said, “I guess it goes without saying that I’m happy to be here and to be associated with these remarkable people. I admit to a certain amount of nervousness mixed in with the pleasure, but I’m really looking forward to getting to know everybody – in the newspaper and in the community. This is an amazingly high readership area and I can promise that I’ll do my very best to help The Aspen Times continue to fulfill its commitment to excellence.”
Although the sale of the paper hasn’t been officially concluded, both groups have expressed confidence that negotiations will run smoothly. The final closing is slated for Dec. 1.
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