EO Media investors in it for money, community

BEND — They may not be The Magnificent Seven with guns blazing, but seven individuals and organizations backed the EO Media Group’s purchase of the Bend Bulletin and Redmond Spokesman.

Heidi Wright, EO Media’s chief operating officer, said she spent a couple months meeting with investors and working on the plan to prevail at Monday’s bankruptcy auction that ended with purchase of the two papers for $3.65 million. EO Media offered the investors terms for loans or equity in the new Central Oregon Media Group, the limited-liability company that will hold the Bulletin and Spokesman and operate apart from EO Media and its collection of newspapers and journals.

“Two individuals took us up on the equity offering and the rest on the debt offering,” Wright said.

Developer Bill Smith and public relations master Louis Capozzi joined as the equity shareholders. Smith said he travels and lot and sees large companies do not do local news well.

“Bend is Bend in part because we have had superb newspaper coverage of local news,” he said. “Bend has a special flavor that needs to be protected. We don’t want to be just any town. A vibrant paper helps insure that. Most of my company’s land holdings are in Central Oregon. So we need to have the paper succeed.”

Smith said he is not new to the EO Media Group, having subscribed for more than 25 years to the Capital Press, the company’s weekly newspaper covering West Coast agricultural. He said his investment is about making a profit.

“EOMG is not a charity,” he stated. “My investment is not a donation. A restarted Bulletin and Spokesman will make money.”

Amy Tykeson, former CEO of BendBroadband, The Tykeson Family Foundation, The Bend Foundation, Jay Bowerman, son of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, and Todd Taylor, CEO of the construction firm Taylor Northwest, all made loans.

Wright said EO Media Group controls approximately 67 percent of the Central Oregon Media Group. Based on the $3.65 million bid, that comes out to almost $2.45 million. Wright said she will manage the Central Oregon Media Group and answer to its incoming board of directors, four representatives from the EO Media Group and two members of the Bend community. Those two players to be named later could be investors.

Even so, she said, the investors have no say in the news from the two newspapers.

“They understand this is a financial transaction and they’re not going to control the editorial content,” she stressed.

Wright also said the papers remain committed to transparency. Smith, for example, is involved with the dredging of Mirror Pond, which the Bulletin has reported on. Wright said any time reporting touches on one of the investors, the newspapers will disclose the connection, which is no different than what any reputable news source would do.

Bowerman said he had a lengthy conversation with Wright about either owning equity or owning debt, and he opted for the latter. He said he had a longtime confidant, who is a certified public accountant, vet the deal. He spotted no red flags, Bowerman said, and deemed the deal not as risky as other ventures, in good part because the family-owned EO Media Group has been operating in Oregon in one form or another more than a hundred years.

Bowerman also said the investment was about more than money. The EO Media Group, he said, “was a far better fit for maintaining a true community newspaper here.”

He explained he has a long history of disagreement with the Bulletin, going back 40-plus years, but he was set against strangers with headquarters in distant states owning the local paper.

“Their interests would never be local,” he said.

He also said he knows the Forresters, the family that owns EO Media Group, and Mike Forrester, former editor of the East Oregonian, ran track at University of Oregon under his father, Bill Bowerman.

“All those things sort of come together,” Jay Bowerman said, “and say this just feels right.”