“Santa Barbara News-Press” Website Sells for $285,000

The nearly empty parking lot of the Santa Barbara News-Press in downtown Santa Barbara (edhat photo)

The Santa Barbara News-Press officially sold to the highest bidder during a bankruptcy hearing on Tuesday.

A group named “NP 2024 LLC” and managed by Ben Romo secured the assets at $285,000. The sale included the domain names newspress.com and sbnewspress.com, all website content, social media accounts, and the registered mark “Santa Barbara News-Press.”

Last month it was reported the paper received a $250,000 bid from the Malta-based Weyaweya Ltd. The auction began with Weyaweya, Romo’s group, and a third local group and increased in price by $5,000.

Journalist Jean Yamamura at the Santa Barbara Independent detailed the proceeding and the  discussion over two former News-Press employees who wanted to be paid their wages or reimbursed for expenses for website access and maintenance.

Judge Ronald A. Clifford III expressed his displeasure at the situation, referring to the key assets being held “hostage” in the deal. The LLC fronted by Romo agreed to pay the costs claimed by the two employees as an act of charity.

The former publication, which boasts a storied 150-year history, once housed 50 journalists in its bustling newsroom and operated the area’s sole large-scale printing press. However, following Wendy McCaw’s acquisition of the newspaper from the New York Times in 2000, internal conflicts between the owner and editorial staff led to a sharp decline in public perception and subscription numbers.

By April of 2023, the News-Press had a dwindling staff and subscription base which prompted a relocation from its historic headquarters adjacent to Santa Barbara City Hall to its printing press facility in Goleta.

In June the paper cited “power issues” at their printing plant as a reason subscribers did not receive their paper and decided to go fully digital instead.

On July 21, 2023, McCaw filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy declaration and abruptly fired staff, as revealed in an email from managing editor Dave Mason. The communication acknowledged the impending financial challenges and assured employees that their overdue paychecks would be disbursed once the bankruptcy proceedings concluded.

The following month bankruptcy filing documents showed the paper’s holding company, Ampersand Publishing, owed $5.13 million to creditors.

The bankruptcy proceedings are ongoing.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. Excellent news. Muito bom! My bet will be that we can count on these guys to provide a safe home for the history, and manage it in a compelling manner that serves the community well. Hopefully they will be able to get the physical archives and pull everything together under one roof. Good stuff.

  2. This is not about creating or revivifying a SB News Press site, I think.
    It’s about history and archives.
    SB Historical Museum is interested in salvaging the archives; I’m sure they’re involved in, at least very supportive of NP 2024 LLC.

    “Museum leaders immediately took action when the newspaper’s parent company declared bankruptcy in July, Executive Director Dacia Harwood told Noozhawk. They rallied supporters behind the cause, including the board and local historians, she said.

    The museum has bound newspapers from the 1890s to the 1980s that were previously donated – probably by the News-Press itself. They’re hoping to buy the former newspaper’s “photo morgue,” microfiche collection, clippings, newspapers, and bound copies.”

    More at https://www.noozhawk.com/what-will-happen-to-the-news-press-physical-archives/

    McCaw having control over the entire archive and not even knowing where it is or what condition it’s in is a travesty of civic responsibility and local history.

    • The museums are more concerned about physical archives than digital ones. The News-Press website has always been lacking and its unclear how far back their online articles go. While it would be nice to have the site and trademark preserved, I think most are concerned about the physical stuff. Newspapers.com offers quite a lot of digital versions of the historic paper dating back to the 1800s.

    • Another great article by Jean. The bit about the two employees holding the site “hostage” were pretty interesting to me. I agree with the judge who said these two shouldn’t be able to skip the line to get their compensation ahead of all the other employees.

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