The History of BNI
Boone Newspapers, Inc. [BNI] owns and/or manages newspapers and free shopping guides in 30 communities in Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio. James B. Boone, Jr. [Jim], chairman, lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Other key executive personnel live in those and other BNI-served communities.
A private company, BNI's controlling stockholder is Jim Boone. His children own all other stock in BNI. Numerous others associated with BNI own stock or have financial interest in BNI-operated subsidiaries.
BNI has its corporate origins in Tuscaloosa Newspapers, Inc. [TNI], a company that leased The Tuscaloosa [AL] News from Public Welfare Foundation, Inc. [PWF] from 1951 until 1981. TNI went through several intra-company mergers and name changes in 1981-83, following its decision not to renew its lease on The Tuscaloosa News. Beginning in 1981, PWF operated The Tuscaloosa News for several years and then sold it to its present owner, The New York Times Company.
PWF was principally funded in the 1950s by the late Charles Marsh, who gave The Tuscaloosa News, The Gadsden [AL] Times and The Spartanburg [SC] Herald-Journal to PWF. The structure of leasing newspapers to their publishers and significant PWF funding was provided by Carmage Walls, who then headed Marsh's newspaper company and about that time began his own company.
Buford Boone, father of Jim Boone, was publisher of The Tuscaloosa News under Marsh ownership and formed TNI to lease the newspaper under Walls' guidance. He had come to Tuscaloosa in 1947 when Marsh's company bought that newspaper. Prior to then, he was editor of The Macon [GA] Telegraph, a Marsh-owned newspaper published by Walls. In 1957 Buford Boone was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for distinguished editorial writing.
Jim Boone worked for Walls-owned companies from 1958 until late 1968, in Georgia, Texas and a number of years as publisher of The Suffolk [VA] News-Herald, then owned by Walls and Gene Worrell. He returned to Tuscaloosa in late 1968, when his father sold him a controlling interest in TNI as part of a plan to acquire other newspapers.
Walls suggested selling the leasing company to Jim Boone, provided the basic plan for acquiring newspapers and gave periodic strategic advice for more than 25 years. While there are no financial ties to the Walls Family, the association of the Boone and Walls families continues strong through succeeding generations.
The Picayune [MS] Item, then a weekly newspaper, was TNI's first newspaper purchase in 1970, following in the same year with The Natchez [MS] Democrat. The Picayune Item was converted to a twice weekly, then daily and was sold in 1980 to Donrey Media. The Alexander City [AL] Outlook and The Dadeville [AL] Record, both weeklies, were purchased within the coming 18 months. The Outlook is now a daily.
Additional publications have been added over the years. In 1988 BNI entered a partnership with Narragansett Capital, Inc. [NCI] of Providence, Rhode Island, and acquired operations in Southwest Michigan that include two daily newspapers, two weekly newspapers and a large free shopper. The next year the partnership acquired Woodson Newspapers of Brownwood, Texas, a group of six daily newspapers, a twice weekly newspaper and a number of weeklies, working the Woodson operations into what became BNI's Southwest Group of five dailies at Alice, Brownwood, Stephenville and Waxahachie, Texas and Miami, Oklahoma. In December, 1999, the Michigan operations came under BNI family ownership and the Southwest Group was sold by NCI and BNI to another party in January, 2000.
Partners have been an important part of BNI's development. For about 20 years, BNI had a partnership with what originally was Capital Cities Communications, Inc. BNI bought out those interests in 1997. A number of individuals have been partners in ownership with BNI over the years, usually newspaper executives with close ties to the organization.
In 1992, BNI acquired three Minnesota daily newspapers from the Thomson organization. Then, in 1995, it acquired competing shoppers from another owner in two of those communities, along with a central printing plant in the area.
In 2000, BNI acquired The Suffolk (VA) News-Herald and The Roanoke-Chowan (NC) News-Herald from Media General. In 2006 BNI acquired The Tidewater News of Franklin, Virginia, from Hanes Byerly.
Most recently, BNI acquired the Post-Searchlight and Post Printing of Bainbridge, Georgia, from Sam Griffin Jr. and Mary Ann Griffin. The Post-Searchlight is a twice-weekly newspaper published on Wednesdays and Saturdays with circulation of 7,300. Post Printing is a large regional printing company that specializes in printing newspapers and shopping guide publications.