The Anschutz Corp., which bought the famed Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs last year, is adding another Springs institution to its portfolio: The Gazette.
The corporation’s Clarity Media Group on Friday announced the purchase of The Gazette from Freedom Communications Inc. Terms were not disclosed.
The Anschutz Corp., headed by Denver businessman Philip Anschutz, oversees a wide variety of businesses interests that span the globe, including energy development, agriculture, the news media, sports teams, entertainment venues and movie theaters.
Ryan McKibben, CEO of Clarity Media Group, will serve as chairman of The Gazette. Christian Anschutz, Philip Anschutz’s son, will serve as The Gazette’s vice chairman.
One of McKibben’s first decisions was to retain Dan Steever as president and publisher; Steever has been with The Gazette since September. McKibben described him as “an exceptional manager who has strengthened and grown every organization he’s led. Most of all, his passionate commitment to The Gazette makes him its ideal publisher.”
Steever announced the appointment of Joe Hight as The Gazette’s editor. Hight has been in journalism for more than 30 years and most recently served as director of information and development of The Oklahoman and its website, NewsOK.com, in Oklahoma City, Okla. He served previously as a managing editor of that newspaper.
McKibben called Hight a “perfect fit” as The Gazette’s editor; Hight, at firstname.lastname@example.org, has experience “in virtually every facet of journalism, from the ground up as a reporter to managing editor. We have every expectation that Hight can reinvigorate all aspects of the newspaper, and his more recent concentration with Internet development ensures that The Gazette will be a well-positioned news organization going into the future.”
The Gazette’s name will remain unchanged, and it will continue to be published as a paid circulation daily newspaper, McKibben told Gazette staffers Friday. Gazette associates will transition to Clarity Media.
The Anschutz Corp. also owns The Oklahoman as a result of its acquisition in 2011 of The Oklahoma Publishing Co. Oklahoma Publishing’s assets included the internationally known, five-star and five-diamond Broadmoor hotel and resort in Colorado Springs, as well as the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
Clarity Media, meanwhile, also owns the Washington Examiner daily newspaper in Washington, D.C. Clarity’s Examiner.com operates an international network of local news and information sites.
Gazette’s roots reach to 1872
The acquisition of The Gazette by Anschutz’s Clarity Media marks a new chapter in the history of the newspaper, which traces its roots to the weekly Out West newspaper, which was started by Gen. William Jackson Palmer in 1872 one year after he founded Colorado Springs. Today, The Gazette is Colorado’s second largest daily newspaper behind the Denver Post, serving El Paso and Teller counties.
In addressing Gazette staffers, McKibben described Colorado Springs as a diverse market with great growth potential. The Anschutz Corp. and Philip Anschutz see the Springs as an important community in the state that deserves a first-class news and information company, he said.
As such, Clarity’s No. 1 goal will be to make The Gazette “the most comprehensive, timely, accurate, fair and entertaining news and information source in Colorado Springs and in the market,” McKibben said. That commitment will cross multiple platforms — print, mobile devices, e-readers and the Internet, McKibben said.
Clarity’s intent to create “a new level of excellence” at The Gazette will include “adding additional news pages, growing circulation, improving digital capabilities and bringing more focus to local news that’s important to readers,” McKibben said. He also pledged expanded coverage of the region’s military operations.
Clarity Media and the Anschutz Corp. also will make a commitment to the community as a corporate citizen, McKibben said. While The Gazette will not abandon its role as a news watchdog, it nevertheless can contribute to the community in other ways.
“We need to be a leader in this community,” McKibben said. “A good newspaper can make a community better. A good community can make the newspaper better. We need to work hand in hand.”
McKibben also personalized the Anschutz’s Corp. interests, saying “the state of Colorado, and the city and the community of Colorado Springs are important to the Anschutz family.”
Steever said he’s learned quickly that The Gazette’s new owners have a keen interest in the community.
“There’s a passion about Colorado Springs in this ownership group,” Steever told Gazette staffers. “There’s a passion about the community. There’s a passion about this paper.”
Community leaders welcome news
Clarity’s acquisition of The Gazette was welcomed by Springs community leaders.
Mayor Steve Bach praised Clarity’s plans to expand The Gazette’s news coverage.
“There are some great things happening in Colorado Springs,” Bach said. “With military operations continuing to grow and our aggressive recruitment of high-tech companies, expanded local news coverage will be a great help in the strengthening of our economy. In addition to serving as a leading provider of news and opinion, The Gazette can be a tremendous partner in building community.”
Bill Hybl, chairman and CEO of the El Pomar Foundation, one of the state’s largest charitable trusts, also applauded the news.
“Having The Gazette owned by a Colorado entrepreneur and philanthropist with the proven commitment that Phil Anschutz has for Colorado Springs is simply terrific news for this region,” Hybl said.
Broadmoor president and CEO Steve Bartolin, who’s worked with Philip Anschutz and his staff for more than a year since the hotel’s sale to the Anschutz Corp., described Anschutz as a dedicated and passionate businessman who “wants to do things right” no matter what enterprise he’s involved in.
“He cares about quality,” Bartolin said. “He cares about people. Between these two purchases (The Broadmoor and The Gazette), think about the commitment he’s made to Colorado Springs.”
Clarity’s acquisition marks the second sale of The Gazette in five months.
In July, 2100 Trust, a Massachusetts-based company, purchased The Gazette and parent company Freedom Communications, which also included The Orange County Register and five other newspapers. In a news release Friday, 2100 Trust chief executive Aaron Kushner described The Gazette as one of Freedom’s “premier properties and an incredibly important institution. We were impressed with Clarity and how they share our belief in the value of The Gazette and investing in its health and growth.”