Alabama pension fund now sole owner of local newspaper chain

Alabama's employee pension fund, with nearly 360,000 members and some $44 billion in managed assets, has become sole owner of one of the largest chains of local U.S. newspapers, the company said Thursday.

CHNI LLC has been acquired by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the company announced in a statement. The newspaper group includes 68 daily newspapers and more than 40 non-dailies plus websites in 22 states.

The Montgomery, Alabama-based newspaper group is being spun off Raycom Media Inc., which is being purchased by the Atlanta-based Gray Television Inc. Raycom was owned by the retirement system.

CNHI, which began as a small newspaper group in 1997 and previously operated with the state retirement system as its creditor, will gain stability through the acquisition, chief executive Donna Barrett said in the statement.

"We are very excited about working with RSA again because of its dedication to the crucial role of newspapers in keeping the public informed on what is happening in their communities and beyond," she said.

Among CNHI's newspapers are the Valdosta Daily Times in Georgia, The Tribune Star in Terre Haute, Indiana, the Gloucester Daily Times in Massachusetts, The Meridian Star in Mississippi and the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, New York.

Financial details weren't announced. The chief executive of the pension fund, David Bronner, said the Alabama system has been invested in the newspaper group for decades, "and we are very comfortable with the investment."

Alabama's pension fund has other non-traditional investments including golf courses, airliners and the largest office building in New York City, 55 Water.

Gray Television, which began as a regional broadcaster, owns or operates stations and digital properties in 91 television markets nationwide with the acquisition of Raycom Media.