Small Town News


Chatfield News sold to Spring Grove couple

The Chatfield News of Chatfield, Minnesota

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An agreement has been reached to transfer ownership of the parent company of the Chatfield News to a local couple, Paul and Heather Gray of Spring Grove.

David Phillips, president of Phillips Publishing, Inc., which oversees the community newspapers of the Bluff Country Newspaper Group, said the transition is effective July 1.

Heather Gray started with the company in 2002, taking on the role of managing editor of the Spring Grove Herald. She is currently a part-time graphic artist for the company and has recently been working full time for an insurance company. She will begin full-time employment on June 29. Paul Gray joined the organization in 2008 as an advertising salesperson.

Phillips said he hadn't thought about retirement, but when the Grays approached him about purchasing the company, he decided it would be in the best interest of the company to work out a process that keeps the newspapers in local control. The plan would also keep him involved in the operation for several years "I received a certificate for taking part in succession planning offered by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, and I have written columns on how important business succession is in small towns," said Phillips. "That's why I was agreeable to work out a plan for selling the company to the Grays over time even if the timing isn't exactly how I envisioned it."

Phillips came to southeastern Minnesota in 1981 to work for his father, Fred Phillips, who owned the Spring Valley Tribune. The younger Phillips bought into the family business, which was also owned by his mother, Emeline, over time. He started managing the business as publisher in 1988 when his father died. He expanded the operation in 1991, purchasing the Republican-Leader and News-Record, which are now the Fillmore County News Leader. The Bluff Country Reader has its origins decades ago, but was redesigned similar to what it is today in 1999. In 2002, he added the Spring Grove Herald. The Chatfield News was purchased in 2003. Finally, the Tri-County Record based in Rushford was added two years ago.

"Having people that are familiar with the area and familiar with the company's operations should lead to a smooth transition," said Phillips. "We emphasize community journalism and that is why you see our staff members at graduation, local events such as Relay for Life, and so many activities that happen in the community."

The Grays are looking forward to continuing the fine journalism tradition of the newspaper group while looking at new ways to add to readers' online experience and bring more social media into the business.

"We think that small town newspapers are important, and we are grateful to be part of that strong history in the communities we serve," Heather noted.

Phillips plans to remain active in various community organizations and remain on the boards he currently serves on. He resides in Spring Valley and is married to Pam Phillips. They have two grown children, Greg and Lisa, and three grandchildren, Justin, Morgan and Rylee. Phillips is looking forward to having more time for family and leisure activities while still playing an active role in the organization.

The Grays have been active in the Spring Grove community since 1993 when they purchased their first home there. They have two children, Benjamin, 16, and Hannah, 13.

Copyright 2015 The Chatfield News, Chatfield, Minnesota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 17, 2015

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