Omaha Reader Sold to Department Store Heir

Former Owner Beckman Remains as Publisher.

Alan Baer, a wealthy department store heir, has purchased controlling interest in Omaha’s six-year-old 20,000-circulation alternative weekly newspaper, the Reader. Baer bought a 95 percent ownership stake in the paper from Publisher Dan Beckman, who will retain the remaining five percent.

The sale price was not disclosed by Baer or Beckmann. However, a source familiar with the sale says Baer paid about $500,000 for the paper, which has annual revenue of more than $1 million, according to the source. The source also says that Beckman received a two-year employment contract to stay on board as the paper’s publisher.

The 77-year-old Baer is a longtime businessman and property owner in the city as well as co-owner of the Omaha Lancers junior hockey team.

Baer, who has no previous publishing experience, says the purchase “seemed like a logical [business venture],” but he wouldn’t have done it if Beckmann hadn’t been involved. “The main reason I bought into this was Dan. He’s a helluva good man. He’s grown this paper from nothing. That’s why I wanted him to keep five percent, so he’ll stick around for at least another three or four years.”

Despite his new majority-owner status, Baer is quick to add, “Dan is still the boss.”

Beckman could not be reached for comment.

Baer’s deal for the Reader is the second ownership shake-up at the paper in the last five months. Last November, Beckman bought out former Reader co-owner and editor John Heaston. The 29-year-old Heaston and Beckman had joined forces in 1994 to co-found the Reader. “We had different management philosophies,” Heaston told the Omaha World-Herald. “It was one of those deals that started on a handshake, but then when we got bigger, it was really difficult to have two people in charge.”

After Heaston left the Reader, he turned his energies to starting a new alternative newspaper called Omaha Weekly. His new paper debuted earlier this month with a circulation of 20,000.

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