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Small family’s newspaper group sells The Dispatch-Argus

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Family-owned Small Newspaper Group is selling the assets of its Illinois-side Quad-Cities daily, The Dispatch-Argus to Lee Enterprises, publisher of the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa.

Lee announced the purchase price as $7.15 million, including an adjustment for working capital. The sale was expected to close in late June.

Dirks, Van Essen & Murray, the Santa Fe, N.M.-based merger and acquisition firm, represented Small Newspaper Group in the transaction.

“The Dispatch-Argus is a perfect strategic fit for Lee,” Lee President and CEO Kevin Mowbray said in a statement. “It is adjacent to two of our Iowa enterprises, in Davenport and Muscatine, so this will expand our audiences and create additional synergy opportunities. We expect the acquisition to provide immediate value, accretive to both earnings and free cash flow.”

The newspaper has a circulation of about 25,000.

Lee said Debbie Anselm, publisher of the Quad-City Times and the Muscatine Journal, will become publisher of The Dispatch-Argus, succeeding Gerald J. Taylor.

“The choice of selling this property after a half-century was a difficult, but necessary move,” Small Newspaper Group President Len R. Small said in a statement. “It has been a great journey under the leadership of (Rock Island Argus Publisher) Gerald J. Taylor, whose storied career includes the launching of the Sunday edition, the purchase of the Rock Island Argus, the conversion to morning delivery and the founding of QCOnline.com at the beginning of the digital age.

In The Dispatch-Argus, Small added that the group was seeking a “smaller and more manageable footprint in the Midwest. The company publishers three other dailies and several magazines and owns digital services agencies in Illinois and Minnesota.

Anselm said The Dispatch-Argus would continue to have editorial independence under Lee ownership.

Tom Biermann, a former publisher of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, will be general manager of The Dispatch-Argus.