Pittsburgh Pirates owner buys The Union and Sierra Sun newspapers

The Union and Sierra Sun newspapers are being sold to a well-off gentleman named Robert Nutting who is the principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team; a small ski resort in the “Keystone State”; and — last but not least — a chain of small newspapers, magazines and some phone directories based in Wheeling, West Virginia.

The net worth of Nutting and his family comes to an estimated $1.1 billion (with a “b”). Nutting’s family is listed as the 10th wealthiest owner in the MLB, according to Wealth-X, a global-wealth intelligence firm.

“BOTTOM-LINE BOB”

Nutting’s nickname, at least to some of his critics, is “bottom-line Bob.” An Instagram account titled “Spend Nutting, Win Nutting” pokes fun at the MLB owner. A fan once was asked to remove a T-shirt at a Pirates game that was critical of Nutting. It also read “Spend Nutting, Win Nutting.” An alternative newspaper in West Virginia, The Wheeling Alternative, also is a frequent detractor.

In 2018, the appearance of the Pirates mascot at a GOP dinner in Pittsburgh, which included a visit by then-President Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway, raised eyebrows. The Pirates said it was not a political endorsement.

The editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been a harsh critic of Nutting. In an editorial last month that conjured up images of Scrooge himself (ahead of Christmas, no less) the Pulitzer Prize-winning PG wrote: “We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: If Bob Nutting doesn’t want to pay to field a legitimate Major League Baseball team in Pittsburgh, he should sell to someone who will.” (The PG won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting). 

Nutting, 59, whose title is CEO of Ogden Newspapers and The Nutting Company, reiterated his family’s “commitment to the industry and the critical role of community newspapers.” The family leadership also includes Bill Nutting (VP) and Cameron Nutting Williams (chief revenue officer).

The sale is set to close Dec. 31, and with the acquisition, Ogden Newspapers now will publish 54 daily newspapers and a number of weekly newspapers and magazines, including the Utne Reader (a longtime vanguard of the alternative press), in 18 states.

Ogden will continue to operate the existing Swift publications under the name Swift Communications. After the close date, Swift will change its name to Questor Corp. Swift’s Acres USA and Breaking Ground Institute will be part of Questor, along with a portfolio of commercial and residential real estate properties in various states.

Founded in 1975, the second- and third-generation family owned Swift Communications has operated magazines, newspapers, websites, book publishing and other digital products in western state cities, according to its press release. In California, that includes Grass Valley, Truckee, and South Lake Tahoe; and Carson City in Nevada. In Colorado, that includes the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun, Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Vail Daily, Summit Daily News, Steamboat Pilot, Craig Press and Sky-Hi News near Winter Park. Swift also includes publications and offices in Park City, Utah.

“The publications, communities and most of all the great people who have been a part of our company since its founding in 1975 will be very much missed,” Bill Waters, CEO and chairman of the Board of Swift Communications, said in the announcement. “We know the time has come to pass the baton of stewardship to new owners who can carry forward the important mission.”

LET’S GIVE BOB A CHANCE

Let’s give Mr. Nutting a chance with our local newspapers. Despite the criticism of being “bottom-line Bob,” Nutting founded the Pittsburgh Pirates philanthropic arm, Pirates Charities, in 2010.

Our son, who is a student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, might be one of the few locals to own a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball hat. He said he liked the color scheme.

“Nutting was born on March 29, 1962 in Wheeling, West Virginia,” according to Wikipedia. “He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Nutting likes the outdoors, enjoying his time fly fishing, skiing and flying his personal twin-engine aircraft. Nutting and his wife, Leslie, have three daughters. An avid conservationist, Nutting is the driving force behind the Pirates’ ‘Let’s Go Bucs. Let’s Go Green’ initiative to make PNC Park operations more environmentally friendly.”

Leslie Ganyard Nutting is “a painter based in West Virginia, though her roots are in California. . . . She uses field painting opportunities to slow down, look closely, think openly, and intensely feel the world as it is,” according to her CV. Leslie studied art at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museum of Art and received her MFA in painting from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I like her work: It reminds me of some of the bucolic American landscapes we have hanging on the walls at home.

Nutting (credit: NuttingCompany.com)

The Pirate Parrot (credit: MLB.com/Pirates)

T-shirt (credit: Amazon.com)

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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