Newspapers serving regional and rural communities in South Australia and Queensland are set to change ownership after ACM agreed to terms to sell 14 titles to the Star News Group.
Publications proposed to change hands include the paid weekly publications Victor Harbor Times, Naracoorte Herald, Port Lincoln Times and The Islander in SA and the Beaudesert Times, Goondiwindi Argus and North-West Star in Queensland.
ACM managing director Tony Kendall said the company had been approached by a few different parties in recent months about "our willingness to sell regional titles outside our key markets of NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania".
"We have then gone through an informal sale process and are pleased to announce we have found a buyer with a strong history in publishing," Mr Kendall said.
"We feel these titles with their proud legacies will have a bright future continuing to serve their communities under the guidance of Paul Thomas and the Star News Group team.
"For ACM, this allows us to focus on our core titles, including our 14 daily mastheads, our industry-leading agricultural publications and our growing base of digital subscribers."
Staff working on the South Australian and Queensland titles have been briefed on the proposed sale, with consultation under way ahead of the anticipated completion of the transaction in February.
ACM's popular agricultural flagships Queensland Country Life, the North Queensland Register and South Australia's Stock Journal are not involved in the sale and will continue as part of ACM serving the important rural and farming audiences of those states.
Owned by Antony Catalano and business partner Alex Waislitz's Thorney Investment Group, the ACM network is Australia's largest independent publisher of regional news and the owner of this masthead.
Mr Kendall said ACM remained committed to publishing despite the challenges posed by the soaring cost of the newsprint used for newspapers.
"We are incredibly proud of the role our long-standing mastheads play in print and online in keeping their communities informed, connected and strong," Mr Kendall said.
"Our focus has always been on keeping our business sustainable so if we're approached about titles outside of our key markets we would of course look at what's best for those mastheads, their communities and how any potential transaction might help support and strengthen ACM in its key markets."
Mr Kendall said ACM was also in early talks with another potential buyer to sell its community titles in regional Western Australia.
The acquisition of the ACM titles will grow the footprint of Star's associated titles under the Today News Group brand in Queensland and the Border Watch Group in Mount Gambier.
Led by managing director Paul Thomas, Star has been owned by the Thomas family since its inception more than a century ago.
The company grew from the Berwick Shire News and Pakenham and Cranbourne Gazette founded in 1909 by Albert Edward Thomas.
The Star News Group publishes dozens of community newspapers in the Melbourne area and other parts of Victoria, as well as in Queensland and South Australia.
Mr Thomas said that as the fourth generation of his family leading the company, he was deeply committed to the role of the local newspaper in the community.
"A strong independent local media is as important today as ever and the Star News Group has been involved in many positive campaigns to make a difference within our communities," Mr Thomas said.
"We plan to nurture and grow these new titles in our group and look forward to working with the local community served by each of these mastheads."
The titles ACM is selling in SA are: the Border Chronicle, Naracoorte Herald, Port Lincoln Times, The Islander, The Murray Valley Standard, The Recorder, The Victor Harbor Times, The Transcontinental, Whyalla News, Coastal Leader and The Flinders News. In Queensland, Star News Group will take ownership of the Beaudesert Times, the Goondiwindi Argus and the North-West Star in Mount Isa.