Before Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post, Aaron Kushner bought the Orange County Register.
Kushner believes in newspapers. Physical newspapers. The kind made with ink and news print. And apparently, he's making his beliefs work.
"A physical newspaper can do things a digital paper cannot," he told CNBC. "It conveys and builds a sense of community that you don't get online." He admits this is his own observation, not the result of research. Still, "You're never going to tape your iPad to the refrigerator."
Kushner and partner Eric Spitz bought the Register's parent company, Freedom Communications, out of bankruptcy in July 2012 with the help of unnamed investors. Kushner declined to say how much they paid for the paper and several local weeklies, but the Los Angeles Times reported the purchase price may have been $50 million to $60 million.
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The new owners have poured millions into the operation, adding 440 employees or rehires (including 180 news staff) and increasing pages. Freedom has expanded two of its weeklies into dailies. Most recently, the company branched out into hostile territory—Long Beach, Calif. The Long Beach Register is now competing against the entrenched local paper, the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
"He's going to spend a lot of money, we're going to spend a lot of money, and then he's going to go home a loser," John Paton, CEO of the Press-Telegram's parent company, told the Times.