After one previous, unsuccessful attempt to sell the Princeton Packet Inc., longtime publisher James Kilgore announced on March 11 that he had reached “a definitive agreement to form a new company to own and operate the newspapers and digital websites of Packet Media Group.”
The new company is being formed in partnership with Broad Street Media, headed by CEO Darwin Oordt, an industry veteran who will oversee the day-to-day operations of the new company, as well as its strategic direction. He said he was “excited by the opportunity that Packet Media Group offers. It is a company with deep local history and with solid editorial products in a very dynamic, upscale market.” Oordt noted that “the Broad Street ownership team feels very strongly that the new company can produce newspapers and digital sites that the community wants to read and where advertisers wish to showcase their retail stores and businesses, allowing the new company to maintain long-term profitability. We really want to grow this company.”
The transaction is expected to close on April 1.
Kilgore will remain publisher of the new company’s titles and will retain a seat on the board. He will also remain active in the Princeton area, according to the Packet account of the deal. Michele Nesbihal, Packet Media’s general manager and marketing director, will also keep her current positions. She said she was “excited about the new opportunities, support, and infrastructure that Broad Street Media brings to the table.” The new company will be located in the current location of Packet Media Group on Witherspoon Street.
The Packet’s news account of the transaction reported that its publications have paid circulation of about 40,000, circulating in Princeton and surrounding communities. Besides the Princeton Packet, the company publishes the Hopewell Valley News, Hillsborough Beacon, Windsor-Hights Herald and the Cranbury Press. Packet Media Group’s main local portal website, centraljersey.com, has monthly unique visitor base of about 100,000.
“With the changing media landscape and challenges facing local community journalism, our company felt it was important to team up with another publishing group committed to community publishing,” Kilgore said. “The synergies that Broad Street offers will help the newly formed company and our dedicated and talented staff realize operating efficiencies and give the company access to newer technology and a team of professionals with deep roots in our industry.”
Broad Street Media, formed in 2010, currently publishes a group of community newspapers and specialty products with a total combined circulation of more than 500,000. These include the Northeast Times, Star and Philadelphia Weekly in Philadelphia; the Midweek Wire in Bucks County, PA; Montgomery County Living in Montgomery County, PA; the Wire and Gloucester County Living in southern New Jersey; Employment Weekly in Philadelphia and New Jersey; and other newspapers in northern New Jersey and Maryland.
Packet Media Group was founded in 1955, when James Kilgore’s father Bernard (Barney) Kilgore, bought the paper. Kilgore proceeded to expand, adding several papers to the group, until his death in 1967. Barney Kilgore was also the legendary head of Dow Jones & Co., where his vision and leadership led to the growth of the Wall Street Journal from a readership base of 30,000 paid daily circulation to a base of more than one million paid daily circulation.
Kilgore started with Packet Media Group in 1976 and has served in his current role since 1980. He oversaw a period of significant growth for the company, including its embrace of digital publishing in 1995.
Up until about a year ago, the Packet had two editions per week. The Tuesday issue was discontinued, and the paper continued with a Friday publication. The Packet Media Group also discontinued printing its own publications at its facility on Witherspoon Street and outsourced the work to a printing plant in Delaware.