New ownership planned
From left, Rich Klein, Clay Lambert, Lenny Mendonca, Louie Castoria and Wick Communications CEO Francis Wick discuss with staff plans to sell the Half Moon Bay Review to a group of local investors. Jamie Soja / Review

A newly formed community group called the Coastside News Group announced on Tuesday its intention to purchase the Half Moon Bay Review from Arizona-based Wick Communications. Parties to the sale say that, once complete, the deal would return the award-winning newspaper to local ownership and spark a renewed emphasis on community service.

Terms of the deal were not announced. It was expected to be finalized by May 1, after a period of due diligence. The deal would include the Review’s current building at 714 Kelly Ave. in Half Moon Bay.

“We are excited and honored to serve our Coastside neighbors by preserving and bringing new vitality to the Half Moon Bay Review, which will operate as a self-sustaining, independently owned, community newspaper,” said Lenny Mendonca, Coastside News Group’s lead investor and managing partner, in a prepared release.

“We thank Wick Communications for their ongoing support of quality journalism, and we are committed to ensuring local journalism not only survives but thrives,” he said.

The ownership group has deep ties to the Coastside. Joining Mendonca, a local businessman with extensive ties to the nonprofit world, are community volunteer Susy Castoria, businesswoman Kelly Hoffman-Davis, former school board member Roy Salume and technology executive Rich Klein.

Wick, which owns 27 newspapers across the country, announced in November that it was selling its only California property. It had owned the 120-year-old Review for more than 30 years. Over that period the newspaper won dozens of awards, including being named the best small weekly newspaper in the country by the Local Media Association in 2006.

“We are pleased to pass the baton of the Half Moon Bay Review to a local group of civic leaders,” said Francis Wick, CEO of Wick Communications, in the same release. “We are confident they will continue to sustain this award-winning publication as a community asset for years to come.”

Business is expected to continue as usual as the sale is completed. All current employees are expected to continue in their positions.

Coastside News Group principals say they were interested in the future of the Review, its magazines and web products because together they represent an important pillar in the community. They have been clear that they have no interest in influencing editorial decisions and plan to codify that in the group bylaws.

One immediate manifestation of greater community input is the creation of a community advisory committee to help lead the course of the Review. Editor Clay Lambert is coordinating development of the committee, which will include prominent news industry professionals with ties to the Review as well as respected readers on the Coastside. Among those who have already agreed to be part of the group are former Publisher Bill Murray, writer and Midcoast resident Richard Rhodes and Half Moon Bay resident and nonprofit leader Erika Wood.

Both parties to the sale consider it a landmark deal that could lead to a new cooperative and sustainable ownership model for other publications. The Review will continue to work with Wick through the transition and beyond. Directors plan to engage Wick for a variety of administrative and production functions behind the scenes.

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