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Investor group with a range of business interests buys Maine Media Collective's assets

BY James McCarthy

6/14/2018
Courtesy / State 23 Media LLC
Courtesy / State 23 Media LLC
A group of media and business leaders from Maine, New England and other national markets has acquired all print, event and digital media assets from Maine Media Collective. The sale closed on Wednesday.

About State 23 Media

The company is focused on acquiring, launching, investing in and expanding media properties in Maine that rely on connected communities of trade professionals and enthusiastic consumers. Current businesses include Maine magazine, Maine Home+Design, Ageless Maine and Old Port magazine, as well as producing events and marketing/branding services.

A group of media and business leaders from Maine, New England and other national markets has acquired all print, event and digital media assets from Maine Media Collective, the Portland company that was rocked this spring when its owner and former publisher Kevin Thomas was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee.
The acquisition by State 23 Media LLC includes Maine magazine, Maine Home+Design and Old Port magazine. The company was formed with the express purpose of acquiring those brands from Thomas, who agreed to sell the company after acknowledging making inappropriate advances in 2010 to a younger co-worker, Jessie Lacey, when she was employed at Maine Media as a designer. Lacey posted a blog essay detailing her experiences on the website Medium in late April, which eventually led to Maine Media Collective CEO and Publisher Andrea King’s April 30 announcement that Thomas would be “transitioning away from the company” and eventually selling it.
The sale of the company's assets occurred on Wednesday, June 13, and does not include Art Collector Maine or its gallery, Portland Art Gallery. The new owners had no prior connection to Maine Media Collective, according to a news release announcing their acquisition.

Adam Japko, the founder and CEO of Esteem Media (New England Home, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyle, Design Bloggers Conference) is a lead investor and will work closely with King, who will continue to lead the former Maine Media brands as publisher and CEO of State 23 Media. Sandy Spaulding, a long-time Maine business leader, is another key member of the investor group and will draw on his local experience to help insure the formation and future success of the company, the news release stated
"We're confident Adam and his team's experience and expertise with national and local media properties will propel our business forward and allow us to continue making a positive impact on the state we love," King said. "This group of people invested in our magazines because they believed in our talented team, the editorial mission and the passionate community we've connected and created around our media brands. We're excited to continue sharing unique and compelling stories about Maine and its people, helping local businesses grow and investing in the state's creative community."
Japko added: “Since 2005 we have been acquiring best-in-class regional media around the country, so getting this unique opportunity to invest in Maine's local media and business communities made tremendous sense to us. As we have with our other properties, we will provide capital and a framework for the local team to create print media, online media, and events that produce meaningful results for local businesses and consumers."
Spaulding said that he and his wife, Jill Hinckley, “are pleased that we were able to assemble an outstanding team of media professionals to collaborate with a tremendous group of local leadership and staff at these venerable media brands. We have deep roots and a love of Maine and are pleased to support our Maine community."

State 23 Media's ownership team includes:
Adam Japko, CEO of Esteem Media, founder of Design Bloggers Conference and managing partner of New England Home Magazine. Japko has run consumer and B2B media properties and companies since 1980. Most recently, he acquired and ran local home design magazines for Network Communications while launching social media and content marketing solutions and events for the national design industry.
Sandy Spaulding, president of Sea Glass Capital Advisors, a financial and management advisory firm in Portland. He also is chairman of Barton & Gray Mariners Club, chairman of the Maine Technology Institute and managing director of business development for Hodgdon Yachts.
Jill Hinckley, owner of Hinckley Introduction, a matchmaking agency in Portland. Hinckley worked for years at Hinckley Yachts, which was founded by her grandfather in Southwest Harbor, and later became managing partner at Teak and Holly, a marine industry recruiting firm.
Gary Mueller is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in the media, data and technology sectors. He is currently chairman of LiquidX, the largest exchange for trade assets. Mueller sold his first company, a global data business with offices in 29 countries, to Institutional Investor, a media company covering the financial services industry, which he then led as CEO. He is also a partner in New England Home Magazine.
Chris Legg is a financier of media and technology companies. He is a partner and senior managing director at Progress Partners, an investment bank with offices in Boston and New York, and general partner at Progress Ventures, the firm's venture capital arm. Legg is a managing partner of New England Home Magazine.
Gerry Parker, COO and CFO of some of the largest local media companies, most recently Network Communications Inc., an Atlanta-based publisher of 400 magazines.
Bruce Hallett, president and CEO of Stuart Dean Co., has served as president of Sports Illustrated and Time magazines, and managing director of Time Inc. Magazines South Pacific, in Sydney, Australia.
Karen Weltchek Mueller is a Boston-based management consultant and entrepreneur. A graduate of Harvard College and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and an alumna of McKinsey & Co., she is co-chair of the advisory board of the American Repertory Theatre, chair of the Overseers of the Friends of Harvard and Radcliffe Rowing, and a trustee of the Dexter Southfield School.

Editor's note: The original headline for this story did not make clear that the investor group only purchased Maine Media Collective's "assets" — and not the company itself, which is still owned by Kevin Thomas and retains control of Art Collector Maine and its gallery, Portland Art Gallery. State 23 Media LLC's acquisition, which closed on Wednesday, includes Maine magazine, Maine Home+Design and Old Port magazine, as well as event and digital media assets.