Forum Communications Co., or FCC, announced Friday it is entering into an agreement to purchase the publications and a carrier delivery company owned by Helmer Printing. The deal is scheduled to close Monday, June 27.
Helmer Printing is a third-generation, family-owned company based in Beldenville, Wis. Mark and Scott Helmer, along with sister Jenny, will continue to operate their commercial printing business.
“Conversation of the possible merger or acquisition started when Bill Marcil Sr. and I were talking about the name change of our alma mater, the University of North Dakota. We did not agree on the future name of our alma mater but we did agree that bringing the two groups of publications together made some good business sense,” said Mark Helmer.
“We welcome the Helmer’s family of papers into Forum Communications Company. We have a long history of expanding when it fits our footprint and we are delighted to have such quality publications added to our mix for our customers,” said Bill Marcil Jr., CEO and president of FCC.
FCC owns more than 60 paid and free publications in the upper Midwest as well as four ABC television affiliates in North Dakota, commercial printing operations, a news bureau, and an AM radio station. The company employs 1,600 people.
Helmer Printing’s publications being sold are The Ellsworth Shopper, The River Falls Shopper, The Miss-Croix Shopper, The Baldwin Shopper, The Hiawatha Valley Shopper, The Hastings Free Press, The Hudson Free Press, The Pierce County Citizen News and Family First, a paper for St. Croix Valley parents with young children.
Among FCC’s operations is RiverTown Multi-media, a group of more than a dozen paid and free papers and newspaper printing facility based in Red Wing, Minn. The footprint of Helmer Printing’s publications and RiverTown’s publications is nearly identical. Steve Gall, publisher of RiverTown Multi-media, will oversee the combined operation. Printing of the Helmer papers will move to FCC’s Red Wing plant.
“Helmers’ publications and RiverTowns could not be a better fit. We are both family-owned and strive for long-term relationships with readers and advertisers,” Gall said.
The philosophy behind Forum Communications recent growth – the company is also in the middle of establishing a new commercial printing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. – includes the concept of clustering properties.
“Joining the two groups of papers serving this same Minnesota, Wisconsin border region will strengthen our news, advertising and circulation delivery for customers,” said Matt McMillan, VP of Newspapers for FCC. “And, the timing worked out for both sides.”
Helmer Printing was founded in 1940 by Clayton and Gertrude Helmer. It was purchased in 1981 by their sons Bill and Milton Helmer. Bill’s sons Mark and Scott Helmer purchased the
business in 2001 and run it with their sister Jenny Helmer.
The Ellsworth Shopper, the first of seven free distribution publications started by Helmer Companies, first circulated in Ellsworth in 1955. Publications were then started in Red Wing,
River Falls, Prescott, Baldwin, Hastings and Hudson in that order. The group of publications has one of the highest readership rates of all free distribution publications in North America, according to the Circulation Verification Council of St Louis.
“The spinning off of the publications will allow us to focus on commercial printing and direct mail which are the fastest growing segments of our business. In many ways The Shopper has been our starting point, but it is currently less than 20% of our overall business” said Scott Helmer.
Marcil’s roots in newspaper publishing go back to 1917, when his great-grandfather, Norman B. Black, purchased the Fargo Forum.
Several employees from the Helmer publications are expected to be hired by Forum Communications Co. at the time of the transaction closing. Helmer Printing will continue employing most of its staff for its commercial printing division.
The sale includes a private carrier system known as PDQ, or Postal Delivery Quick. PDQ carriers deliver 52,000 pieces per week in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
“We are very proud of the publications and delivery system our grandparents, father and uncle started in 1955 and we would like to thank our employees, carriers, customers and especially readers who have had a hand in helping us grow the publication side of the business from being welcomed into a few thousand homes to a weekly circulation of over 52,000 during the last 61 years” said Jenny Helmer.
Forum Staff Reports