LAWRENCE — With the help of the RedTire program, an alumnus was recently able to find a buyer for his publishing and newspaper business and pass on his legacy to a young couple passionate about journalism.
When Kansas Publishing Ventures publisher Joel Klaassen heard about the RedTire program a couple of years ago, he thought it sounded like a good opportunity to keep in mind for the future.
“I started thinking maybe that’s something to look into some day, and that day came sooner than expected,” Klaassen said.
Kansas Publishing Ventures, based in Hillsboro, produces the Hillsboro Free Press, a weekly Marion County newspaper; Buyer’s Edge, a multicounty shopper based in Harvey County; and HarveyCountyNOW.com, a countywide quarterly glossy magazine and website. Klaassen started the company, which also prints books and other publications, with his business partner, Don Ratzlaff, in 1998.
Starting with three employees, the company now has 40 employees on payroll, Klaassen said. When Klaassen started thinking about selling his controlling interest in the company, he wanted someone who shared his philosophy on business and journalism to make sure his employees were taken care of after he left, he said.
“I didn’t want to get to be 75 and then get sick and not find anyone to buy it,” he said
Although RedTire usually helps find a buyer match, Klaassen, a 1968 KU journalism graduate, had already met the perfect candidate to carry on his business.
When Klaassen started meeting with Joey and Lindsey Young last year, the couple had recently bought The Clarion, a community newspaper based in Andale, and they were just looking for advice on running their newly purchased publication, Joey said.
“Little did I know, Joel (Klaassen) was vetting me the whole time,” Joey said.
Joey, a Hutchinson Community College alumnus, and his wife, Lindsey, a Bethel College alumna, were interested in expanding their masthead, but they never thought they’d have the opportunity to buy such a large company, Joey said. The deal wasn’t just about adding to his company, however. Joey said he’s an advocate for community journalism, and it’s important to ensure newspapers carry on with strong leadership after owners sell.
“We are the one voice of the community,” Joey said. “We have to take it very seriously. A town without a news outlet is a town without a voice.”
With a buyer already in place, RedTire stepped in to help Klaassen and the Youngs broker the deal, which was finalized in April this year. The Youngs were amazed at how simple RedTire made the process, Joey said, especially after just buying a newspaper without that kind of support.
“If we would have had to broker this on our own, we would’ve had a mess,” Joey said.
Klaassen will stay with the company for the next three years to assist in the transition.
RedTire is currently assisting 20 business owners as they seek new ownership to preserve their businesses in communities across Kansas. The program is a free service and is financed by the KU School of Business and a grant from the Economic Development Administration. Since launching in 2012, RedTire has been called a “national model” for addressing rural small business succession planning by Forbes.com.
For more information, visit redtire.org.
Pictured above, from left, are Don Ratzlaff, minority owner and managing editor of the Hillsboro Free Press; Joel Klaassen, former publisher, and Joey and Lindsey Young, new owners and publishers.