BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — New England Newspapers Inc., which owns The Berkshire Eagle, is selling The Brattleboro Reformer, Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal to Vermont News and Media LLC, a company headed by software entrepreneur Paul Belogour of Guilford, Vt.
The sales price was not disclosed, and Belogour said the terms are confidential. Under the terms of the transaction, which takes effect May 14, NENI will continue to print the newspapers — the Banner and the Reformer, both daily, and the Journal, a weekly — for at least five years.
Vermont News and Media LLC, will hire all of the current employees at the Vermont publications. It will also purchase UpCountry, a magazine focused on and distributed in Berkshire County and Bennington and Windham counties in Vermont.
Belogour, 50, said he approached NENI about three months ago with an interest in purchasing the publications, each more than 100 years old and their respective community’s newspaper of record. He said he reads the Reformer daily, and called it and its sister papers “world-class.”
In a meeting with NENI’s Vermont journalists, sales, circulation and support staff on Tuesday afternoon at the Innovation Box, his building on Landmark Way, Belogour committed to journalistic independence for the papers’ newsrooms and to sharing the wealth if the venture makes money. Belogour has not previously owned a publishing or media company, but said he would rely on the expertise of his employees.
He said he purchased the papers as way to “invest in the local community ... I want to help the community as much as I can.”
Belogour also emphasized that he’s willing to innovate and take risks, as led to success for him down the road even when things didn’t work at first. What he’s not interested in doing, he added, is purchasing additional newspapers.
Belogour said he’s hoping his information technology background can help the publications earn advertising dollars that have been claimed by online sources including Google and Facebook, and that the publications can take advantage of worldwide interest in Vermont as a brand.
NENI President and Publisher Fredric Rutberg said the sale was not predicated by fiscal distress. But he also said the Vermont publications deserve truly local ownership, and that the sale will allow NENI to focus more on The Eagle.
“In 2016, our goal was to restore The Berkshire Eagle to local ownership and control, and with that ownership came our Vermont properties. So, when Vermont News and Media expressed interest, we saw it as an opportunity to bring local Vermont ownership to those publications,” Rutberg said. “The sale will allow us to devote all of our energy and resources to The Berkshire Eagle.”
Rutberg and his fellow investors Hans Morris, the late Robert G. Wilmers, and the late Stanford Lipsey, purchased the newspapers from Alden Global Capital in 2016. Alden had acquired the holdings of William Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group, which purchased the publications from the Miller family of Pittsfield in 1995.
Vermont News and Media was incorporated on Jan. 22, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
Originally from Belarus, Belogour came to Boston in the early 1990s on a rowing scholarship to Northeastern University. After six years at Bank of Boston, in 2001 Belogour, in collaboration with Commerce Bank and Trust, established his first foreign exchange firm, CBFX, which was the first FDIC-insured banking entity offering retail foreign exchange to customers worldwide. A few years after its foundation, CBFX was purchased by IFX Markets and then City Index.
Belogour, working with a team of software engineers, developed UniTrader, built specifically for introducing brokers who help people navigate the world of foreign exchange.
Belogour’s real estate purchases in the past few years include the Country Kitchen/Mattress Center building on Western Avenue in Brattleboro; the Brattleboro Outlets Center on Canal Street; and the former Smyth Mansion at 70 Landmark Drive, now known as the Innovation Box.
He also owns Springfield-based Vermont Beer Makers, formerly known as Trout River Brewing Co., and the former Black Bear Sugarworks in Guilford.
He among the bidders for the former Southern Vermont College property in Bennington last year. Southwestern Vermont Health Care won the auction with a bid of $4.65 million.