The owner of five of Maine’s six daily newspapers, including the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal, and dozens of weekly publications from York to Hancock County, announced in a memo to employees Thursday that he’s exploring selling his media holdings.

Reade Brower

Reade Brower explained that at his age it’s time to think about either selling or partnering with another investor.

“What I want is to find the pathway forward that is best for all the stakeholders including the employees, the readers, the state of Maine as a whole,” he wrote. “It is time to begin that phase, without urgency or desperation. This industry is worth saving. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth finding the next steward to protect and to grow journalism in Maine.”

In a follow-up interview, Brower said he hadn’t planned on sending a memo at this time but felt compelled to respond to rumors and inquiries from other media outlets.

“There is really nothing to tell at this point other than I’m a 66-year-old person who owns a company and needs a succession plan because I don’t have one,” he said.

Memos to employees from Brower, who has owned the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal for nearly eight years, are rare. He has been a hands-off owner who is rarely seen in the newsrooms he owns and doesn’t exert influence over editorial decisions. In interviews about his ownership, Brower has said that he feels a responsibility to be a steward of the newspapers he owns because they are vital to the communities they serve, but he also has said he didn’t buy them to lose money.


Lisa DeSisto, chief executive officer of Masthead Maine, the name of Brower’s collective publications, and the publisher of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and other papers, said she doesn’t think Brower’s announcement comes as a surprise and she’s hopeful that whatever comes next will not disrupt the company. She also praised his leadership.

“I think Reade has been very hands off through his ownership,” she said. “He’s let everyone run their own business, and we’ve done a really good job for him.”


Megan Gray, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald, one of the papers Brower owns, and president of the News Guild of Maine, which represents employees in Portland and at the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, said the union shares Brower’s view that the company’s journalism is worth fighting for.

“Our priority is making sure that employees have a voice in their workplace and are empowered to produce vital journalism,” she said in a statement. “We appreciate Reade’s transparency as he explores his options. The Guild has been an essential part of past ownership transitions, and we will seek to meet with Reade to discuss how we can be a partner in his search.

“We will strongly advocate for any new owner or partner to honor all of the existing contracts for employees at these companies, and we will also work hard to protect our newspapers from bad actors who have decimated local news coverage across the country.”


Dan Kennedy, a media expert and journalism professor at Northeastern University, said he wouldn’t characterize Brower’s memo as “good news,” but it’s not necessarily bad either.

“I can’t say I’ve given microscopic attention to his management, but looking from the outside, it seems like he’s been a pretty good steward,” he said. “He has managed to keep out the national chains. Whether this has a happy ending or not depends on who steps forward as buyer.”

Brower purchased MaineToday Media, the parent company of the Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, in April 2015 from financier S. Donald Sussman. Sussman owned a majority stake in the paper for three years, during which time he paid off the company’s significant debt and invested millions to rebuild a newsroom that had been weakened during the previous ownership.

Since Brower took over, he has expanded his media holdings further, acquiring Sun Media Group – the parent company of the Lewiston Sun Journal and several weekly newspaper chains – in 2017 and adding the Times Record in Brunswick and the Journal Tribune in Biddeford in 2018 and then two weeklies, the Ellsworth American and the Mount Desert Islander, later that year.

The Journal Tribune shut down in 2019 after 135 years in business, part of a broader trend of newspapers folding in communities across the country over the last two decades.



The economic landscape for newspapers has been tenuous for years, as the explosion of the internet created new advertising opportunities and conditioned news consumers to seek out free sources of news. That combination of increased advertising competition and decline in circulation at newspapers continues.

A study last year from Northwestern University’s journalism school found that 2,500 newspapers in the U.S. have gone out of business since 2005, including 360 since right before the pandemic in early 2020.

In places where papers have survived, many have made deep staff cuts.

Some newspapers – particularly larger metropolitan dailies like the New York Times and Washington Post – have been able to counter the loss of advertising revenue through a robust surge in online subscriptions.

Smaller daily newspapers, including the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and others, have moved toward that model as well but their markets are more limited.

Others in the media industry have posited that the future of newspapers, at least in part, might be in adopting a nonprofit model.


Some major newspapers already have switched to a nonprofit model, including the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, the Texas Tribune in Austin and the Chicago Sun-Times. Other organizations that started as nonprofits have helped to close some of the gaps left where newspapers have shuttered, from major national names like Pro-Publica to local ones, like the Maine Monitor.

Brower hinted in his memo to employees that a nonprofit option could be considered.

“The truth is I am beginning the search for what’s next, whether that be a new steward or perhaps partners willing to join me in carrying the torch. We are watching new ownership models emerge across the country from B-corporations to nonprofit efforts,” he said. “Transparency has always been a pillar of journalism, and it’s important to me personally. That said, people will speculate because it is human nature.  Over the past couple of years, I have been approached and looked at different pathways for the future but did not pull the trigger – either I wasn’t ready, I still felt my job was not completed, or the path just didn’t feel right.”


Asked whether he has been approached by buyers, Brower said he has but didn’t offer specifics. He said although there are no guarantees, his goal is to find a buyer or partner with a similar outlook.

“My preference would be to do what (Sussman) did and find someone better suited to take it to the next level,” he said. “I’ve done what I wanted to do and I’m proud of what we’ve done. We have papers that are sustainable and that are still independent.”


Brower’s ownership of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and other local newspapers is antithetical to national trends in which big companies such as Gannett/Gatehouse, Lee Enterprises and McClatchy own dozens and dozens of publications, often across many states.

A native of Westborough, Massachusetts, Brower first got into newspapers in 1985 when he founded The Free Press, a weekly newspaper in Rockland. But he made the bulk of his money from a direct-mail company and an auto catalog that he founded and sold to Auto Trader in 2004.

Brower first expanded his media holdings in 2012 with the purchase of three weekly papers on the Midcoast, The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal in Belfast. Also in 2012, Brower purchased Alliance Press, a printing operation in Brunswick.

Brower wasn’t initially interested in buying the MaineToday Media newspapers – he just wanted the printing jobs. But his thinking shifted after talking with Sussman, who no longer wanted to own the papers but didn’t want to sell them to a corporation that might impose cuts to temporarily drive up profits.

“Donald then found me, someone he believed capable of investing and taking these papers through the next part of the journey,” Brower wrote in his memo Thursday. “I agreed, creating a 10-year plan to create a sustainable business. In this industry, the normal course at the time was to cut your way to prosperity, that was not the approach Donald wanted, nor did I, choosing instead to take a longer and more measured path.

“The results of great teamwork and solid strategy are evident today: a successful and sustainable media company that has financial stability while doing a necessary and vital service for the state of Maine.”

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