Freedom Communications, Inc.


The story of Freedom Communications begins in Alliance, Ohio, with the birth of Raymond Cyrus Hoiles on November 24, 1878. R.C. (as he was called through most of his life) was the son of an industrious and prosperous farmer named Samuel Harrison Hoiles and his wife, Ann Ladd Hoiles, a woman who instilled in her family her love for reading and philosophy. It was under their firm guidance that R.C. developed his strong sense of self-responsibility and thirst for knowledge – two characteristics that would profoundly shape his life.

Although he studied electrical engineering at Mt. Union College in Ohio, R.C.'s interest in the newspaper business took an early foothold when he began selling subscriptions for the Alliance (Ohio) Review, a daily newspaper owned by his brother, Frank Hoiles. Upon graduating from college, R.C. started working full-time for the paper as a printer's devil (an apprentice). By 1905, he had served as the paper's bookkeeper and business manager, eventually acquiring a one-third interest in the paper. It was during this time that he met and married Mabel Myrtle Crumb, beginning a family that would include four children Clarence, Raymond, Harry and Mary Jane, although Raymond succumbed to pneumonia at the age of eight. For the next 17 years, R.C. and Frank expanded their newspaper business, buying the Lorain (Ohio) Times Herald in 1919 and the Mansfield (Ohio) News in 1921. R.C. served as publisher first of the Lorain newspaper and then of the Mansfield newspaper.

It was during this time that R.C.'s deep philosophical conviction began to surface. He sought to speak out against the oppressive influence of labor unions through the pages of the Mansfield News; however, Frank refused to print such criticisms. This fundamental difference eventually caused the brothers to dissolve their partnership and R.C. to buy all interests in both newspapers. He became sole owner. In return, Frank received R.C.'s third of the Alliance Review.

For the first time, Raymond Cyrus Hoiles was publishing independently. He was free to run his newspapers the way he wanted, to share the ideas he believed so vital, to criticize the actions he viewed as so wrong.

"When I was working on a newspaper that I did not control, I used to wish that I was in another line of business," said R.C. "I thought it was much more important to be manufacturing something of a national nature than producing a local newspaper. The newspaper I was connected with at that time did not particularly stand for any principle, so it was difficult to be enthusiastic about the newspaper business. Now I believe that the newspaper business is one of the most important of all businesses. It is a business that can do a lot of good or a lot of harm. It cannot do very much good unless it is consistent and stands for principles that are in harmony with natural, moral law."

R.C.'s growing interest in publishing led him to acquire the Bucyrus (Ohio) Telegraph-Forum in 1927. His oldest son Clarence, a young man of 22, managed the newspaper under his father's direction. The long and productive partnership between R.C. and C.H. (as Clarence was known) had begun.

Shortly thereafter, R.C. became embroiled in a long and bitter battle with a local newspaper rival that included several attempts on his life, including the explosion of a bomb on his front porch. By 1932, the threats and bombings in addition to the competitive climate became so tense that R.C. sold the Lorain and Mansfield newspapers and temporarily closed his door on the business.

The next three decades could be aptly viewed as R.C.'s time of philosophical awakening. Away from publishing, he read extensively the likes of Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, Rose Wilder Lane, Ludwig von Mises, Frank Chodorov, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederic Bastiat and Ayn Rand, leading to his self-identification as a libertarian.

By 1935, he was ready for a fresh start and moved his family to Santa Ana, California, the heart of Orange County and home of his newest newspaper acquisition, The Santa Ana Register.

The Register Years

Along with his new life in Santa Ana, R.C. Hoiles found the perfect avenue for voicing his evolving philosophies on the pages of The Santa Ana Register. Not long after acquiring the paper in 1935, he invited Register readers to engage in public dialogue that continues to this day.

He wrote: "Newspapers cannot do it without the support of the citizens. Newspapers can be only as good, as fearless and as helpful as the public opinion of the community will permit."

R.C. stimulated that dialogue through his personal columns and editorials. It was within the editorial pages of the Register that he shared his libertarian philosophy, objecting to coercion of any type, including the government's power of taxation. He believed that the only legitimate function of government is the protection of its citizens against fraud and force, and that all other government-run programs should be replaced by free enterprise and voluntary actions. His deeply held principles were based on the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule and the Declaration of Independence. From these he extracted his "single code of conduct," believing that if the initiation of force is wrong for an individual, it is also wrong for a government.

"R.C.'s whole life and being were just aimed at that one thing, the concept of the freedom of the individual, and I'm sure that's what kept him going and gave him the purpose for living," said Mike Maloney, a long-time associate of R.C. Certainly, he articulated this philosophy time and time again. He also practiced it.

The true test of R.C.'s character and beliefs was how he lived his life. In addition to reading the diverse works of more modern philosophers, he also studied the Bible in several translations, often quoting from the Ten Commandments and particularly revering those he called the human relations commandments: "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not covet." He was never too busy to share his philosophy of freedom with young Freedom associates and seized every opportunity to do so. Consistent with his voluntaryist principles, he quietly donated money to various charities. Although he lived in accordance with his philosophies, R.C. was a private person and avoided publicity about his lifestyle, choosing to share his views through writing and debating. He lived frugally and dressed modestly, despite his comfortable wealth. His mission was to stimulate others into thinking and to explain his libertarian philosophy not to serve as a personal example nor to be an activist for change.

On the eve of his 75th birthday, R.C. set his beliefs down on paper. He called them his Articles of Faith. To this day, they remain the most clear, most concise and most positive articulation of his personal philosophies.

R.C.'s enduring principles were perhaps best demonstrated by the way he and Clarence ran the Register. He opened the pages of his paper to criticism of his philosophies by establishing a regular column called "The Clearing House," where Register readers could express their views. R.C. welcomed the opinions of his readers and relished the opportunity to respond and "enlighten" them.

While threatening to some, this dialogue drew many readers into the pages of the Register and helped establish the unique character of the newspaper, distinguishing it from its competitors.

The Hoiles publishing empire continued to flourish. R.C. bought the Clovis (New Mexico) News Journal the same year he bought The Santa Ana Register (1935). A year later, he purchased the Pampa (Texas) Daily News. In 1946, he bought the Gazette-Telegraph in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Appeal Democrat in Marysville, California. Two years later, the Odessa (Texas) American joined the Freedom newspaper group. By 1950, R.C.'s newspaper holdings were incorporated as Freedom Newspapers, Inc. By 1970, the year R.C. died, Freedom Newspapers had grown to 16 dailies scattered over seven states.

Clarence Harrison Hoiles, the eldest son, succeeded R.C. as the company's chief executive until his death in 1981. Harry Howard Hoiles, the younger son, was publisher of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph from 1946 to 1975. He served as Freedom's president and chief operating officer from 1971 to 1978. He was subsequently vice chairman and assistant executive officer.

The 1970s brought eight more dailies under the Freedom banner and the 1980s saw diversification into television with the acquisition of five broadcast stations.

Longtime Freedom publisher D.R. Segal succeeded Clarence as president of Freedom Newspapers, Inc., in 1978. He served in that capacity until 1992, when James N. Rosse was elected to the post of president and chief executive officer.

The drive for innovation and parlaying new technologies into communications products continued to be the driving force of the company well into the 1990s. Freedom began its Magazine Division in 1993.

Freedom’s Broadcast Television Division expanded in the late 1990s with the addition of WPEC-TV, West Palm Beach, FL., WWMT-TV, Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo, and WLAJ-TV, Lansing, MI. The company also added newspapers in Shelby, N.C., Sedalia, MO., Jacksonville, IL., Barstow, CA., and Portales, N.M. into the fold.

In 1999, Samuel C. Wolgemuth became President/CEO at which time the company added newspapers in Mesa and Yuma, Arizona to the chain.

In 2002 Alan Bell, former President of Freedom's Broadcasting Division, became President/CEO of Freedom Communications.

In 2004, Freedom partnered with The Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners, creating a recapitalization opportunity for those family members who wanted to sell their shares for cash, while allowing those who wanted to continue in ownership to stay. In the arrangement with Blackstone/Providence, Freedom’s family shareholders maintain control of the company.

In 2006, Scott N. Flanders became Freedom's Chief Executive Officer. That same year, Freedom added its Interactive Division.

In 2007, Freedom added four northern California newspapers to their repertoire - Colusa Sun-Herald, Corning Observer, Orland Press-Register and Willows Journal. A fifth - the Lucerne Valley Leader - was added in 2008.

On July 1, 2009, Burl Osborne was named Interim CEO of Freedom Communications. Mr. Osborne has served on Freedom's Board of Directors since May 2004. He was executive editor and then publisher of the Dallas Morning News from 1980 to 2001, and has been credited with building it into one of the top papers in the country. He also held a number of positions, including president of the publishing division, with the Belo Corporation, which is the parent company of the Morning News. Mr. Osborne was chairman of the board of the Associated Press from 2002 to 2007. He also has served as chairman of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and as a director of the Newspaper Association of America.

On Sept. 1, 2009, Freedom Communications announced it reached an agreement with its lenders on a restructuring of the Company`s debt. Freedom and its subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, along with a plan-support agreement executed by a steering committee of their lenders.

Freedom Communications' daily and weekly newspapers, TV stations and websites continue normal operations. Freedom Communications stated that, as of the filing date, it has sufficient cash to fund daily operations, including post-petition payments to vendors and partners and to meet customer and employee obligations through the duration of the restructuring. Readers, viewers and advertisers should see no difference in the day-to-day operations of these businesses.

On March 9, 2010, Freedom announced the U.S. Bankruptcy Court confirmed its Plan of Reorganization. The Plan, which was approved by an overwhelming majority of its voting creditors, eliminates approximately $450 million of debt from Freedom's balance sheet, giving the Company the flexibility and financial strength it needs to best serve all of its stakeholders.

On April 30, 2010, Freedom Communications announced it officially emerged from Chapter 11. A new Freedom Board of Directors was formally announced shortly thereafter.

On June 29, 2010, Mitchell Stern was named President and Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Interim President and CEO Burl Osborne, who remains on the Board and serves as a senior advisor.

Mr. Stern, who brings more than 30 years of experience in the media industry, started his career at Freedom on July 1, 2010, saying his role is to "remake Freedom into an innovative, multi-platform media company." He previously served as President and Chief Executive Officer of DirecTV U.S., and as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fox Television Stations Inc. in Los Angeles from 1998 to 2003. His leadership at Fox included roles as President and Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Fox Stations Group, Senior Vice President of Fox Television Stations, Inc., Vice President and Station Manager at KTTV-TV Los Angeles, and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Television veteran Thomas Herwitz was named President of Freedom Broadcasting Division in November 2010 to oversee the Company's eight television stations. He succeeded Doreen Wade, a 26-year veteran of Freedom who served as President of the Broadcast Division since 2002.

On November 2, 2011, Freedom entered into a definitive agreement to sell the assets of its broadcast properties to a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., making Freedom essentially free of debt. The sale officially closed April 2, 2012.

On Jan. 12, 2012, Freedom announced the sale of The Tribune, a 6,800-circulation community newspaper in Seymour, IN, to Home News Enterprises LLC, a family-owned publisher of five other newspapers throughout Indiana with headquarters in Columbus, IN.

On Jan. 31, 2012, Freedom announced an agreement to sell the Clovis (NM) News Journal and its associated publications, including the Portales News-Tribune and Tucumcari's Quay County Sun to Clovis Media Inc.

On June 11, 2012 Freedom Communications Holdings, Inc. announced the agreement to be acquired by 2100 Trust, LLC in a merger with a subsidiary of 2100 Trust. At the time the transaction closes, Freedom's businesses will consist of its flagship Orange County Register, the Barstow, CA Desert Dispatch, The Gazette in Colorado Springs, CO, the Marysville, CA Appeal-Democrat, The Porterville Recorder in Porterville, CA, the Victorville, CA Daily Press and The Sun in Yuma, AZ and their associated non-daily publications along with specialty publications and digital properties. On July 25, the acquisition of Freedom Communications by 2100 Trust, LLC was officially completed.

On Nov. 30, 2012, Freedom Communications Holdings, Inc. announced the sale of The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo. to Clarity Media Group.