Business as usual after BBJ sale


Times, they are a changin’.

On August 10, The Bellingham Business Journal was sold to Sound Publishing Inc., based in Poulsbo. While change can sometimes be unsettling, the only change our readers and advertisers will probably notice is that the name under "owner" in the staff box on the next page has changed.

Sun News Inc., our previous owner, purchased the Bellingham and Wenatchee business journals in October 2001. I remember the time well — they had originally planned to announce the sale in September, but as the country was in crisis after the Sept. 11 attacks, we were told they decided to postpone the announcement for a month.

I only learned recently that the closing date for that 2001 sale was actually Sept. 10 and that the purchase papers, along with the offices of the business broker that was handling the deal, were destroyed when the towers fell the next day.

Despite that dramatic start, the past six years have been smooth sailing for the BBJ. Under the competent guidance of Sun News owners Bob Marshall and Kris Passey, we retained complete autonomy over our editorial content and continued in the BBJ tradition of producing 100 percent local, unbiased news.

Tragic news struck Sun News late last year, however, with Bob’s diagnosis with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. His decline was faster than expected. The disease attacks muscle systems, resulting eventually and inexorably in death. To complicate matters, Bob’s wife, Debi, has been battling cancer for the past 14 years. Considering the family’s mounting health problems, managing a group of papers simply became unworkable. The Marshalles, along with Kris and his wife, Catherine, decided they had no choice but to sell all seven of Sun News’ papers.

Last month, Sound Publishing purchased five of those papers: the Marysville Globe, the Arlington Times and the regional Express Shopper, as well as the BBJ and the WBJ. Sound Publishing now owns 32 weekly, bi-weekly and daily newspapers, 18 classified shoppers in the Nickel Publications group, and also has 19 network partner newspapers in Northwestern Washington and Oregon. This amounts to more papers than any other single owner in the region, with a total weekly circulation topping 850,000.

Kris Passey has stayed on with Sound Publishing to manage the papers he used to own, and he continues to be my manager. Sound Publishing announced at their first meeting with new employees that they have no intentions of changing what we do. All of the BBJ’s employees were welcomed to the company, with the added bonus of getting the better benefits of a larger company, which has more negotiating power in the health-care market.

Sound Publishing continues to grow as it expands its reach throughout the state, and we will continue to grow with the company. We continue to be committed to covering local business news to the best of our ability, and we are confident in the support we will get from our new parent company to accomplish this task.

As we approach the BBJ’s 15th anniversary this November, we look forward to continuing to work hard to bring you the best newspaper in town. Even if our ownership changes, you’ll always be able to count on that.


Vanessa Blackburn is the publisher and editor of the Bellingham Business Journal. She can be reached at

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