The Village Voice Gets a New Owner

Voice Media Group's holdings are down to eight alt-weeklies.

Following the sale earlier this year of City Pages to the Star Tribune Media Company and St. Louis’ The Riverfront Times to Euclid Media Group, Voice Media Group (VMG) has unloaded another one of its alt-weeklies. The alt-big one.

The Village Voice has been sold to Black Walnut Holdings, an investment company operated by Peter D. Barbey, president and CEO as well of Reading Eagle Company. As Politico Media’s Joe Pompeo points out in his first-to-this-news item, though not well known in New York media circles, the Barbey family ranked #48 on Forbes most recent Richest Families list. From the family’s list entry:

The roots of this family fortune date back to 1899, when a banker named John Barbey and five partners started the Reading Glove and Mitten Manufacturing Company in Pennsylvania. Using profits from his father’s Sunshine Beer, Barbey bought out his partners and expanded into underwear (though he banned the term). In 1939, his son John Edward “J.E.” Barbey became vice president of the company, then known as Vanity Fair Silk Mills. After he took it public in 1951, the family was no longer involved in operations.

Today, fewer than a dozen members of the Barbey family still own nearly 20% of VF Corporation (as it was renamed in 1969). It’s one of the world’s largest apparel firms, with $12 billion in revenues and brands such as Lee, Wrangler and North Face.

Per Pompeo, the ownership change will be completed by next February, with Voice Media Group still handling national advertising and digital marketing elements for the Voice.

Update (6:00 p.m.):
Billy Penn’s Chris Krewson spoke with Barbey post-acquisition. Based on these remarks, the Voice may have found itself a committed savior:

“I’ve always loved the publication. It was one of the formative things I read when I was in prep school in western Massachusetts,” Barbey said. “I’m honored I had an the opportunity purchase it and be part of its future. It’s one of the world’s great journalistic brands. It deserves to survive and prosper. It’s important to a lot of people. It needs to not be resource constrained. Kind of like anything organic, it just needs food and water…”

“A lot of newspapers look at content like bullets in a gun that you shoot and get advertising. The ones that succeed are very thoughtfully curated and composed content. And the best writing wins. Like the Reading Eagle. I’ve been running that for four years now. We introduced new products and sections. And now we’re the best performing newspaper in Pennsylvania.”

Update (7:30 p.m.):
Village Voice managing editor Jack Buehrer has chimed in. From his item:

The Voice this month will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer. Originally covering only Greenwich Village, the Voice expanded its reach in the 1960s to include all five boroughs. Over the years, the paper has won Pulitzer Prizes for its reporting and this year film critic Stephanie Zacharek became a finalist for the award.

“The Voice has gone through changes for 60 years,” says Voice editor-in-chief Tom Finkel. “We have a great staff here, and now we’ll have a new owner — one who’s in a position to help us get even better.”