New England Newspapers Inc. traces its origins back to the Western Star, a weekly newspaper founded in 1789 in Stockbridge, Mass. That paper changed its name and place of publication several times, as well as its ownership, but it was a continuously operated enterprise, which eventually became the weekly Berkshire County Eagle in 1852.
Kelton B. Miller, along with several partners, purchased that paper in 1891. The following year, on May 9, 1892, it began daily publication as The Berkshire Evening Eagle. Miller soon bought out his partners, and the paper remained in the Miller family until 1995.
The Millers purchased several other newspapers along the way, including the Bennington Banner in 1961, the Brattleboro Reformer in 1969, and the Manchester Journal in the early 1980s. They also launched a commercial printing division in 1961.
Over the years, The Berkshire Eagle and its sister newspapers became a very highly regarded. In 1973, one of the Eagle’s editors, Roger Linscott, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial writing, attracting national attention to the Millers’ newspapers. The Eagle became an attraction for journalism school graduates starting their careers, and many of those reporters went on to renowned careers throughout the journalistic world in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine and others.
MediaNews Group, based in Denver, purchased these newspapers from the Millers in 1995. MediaNews added the North Adams Transcript to the group in 1996. The Transcript was merged with the Eagle in 2014. MediaNews Group, itself, was combined with other entities to form Digital First Media.
In 2016, a group of Berkshire-based investors purchased New England Newspapers Inc. from Digital First Media. The original ownership group consisted of:
- Stanford Lipsey — Publisher Emeritus of The Buffalo News
- Hans Morris — managing partner of Nyca Partners, a venture capital firm in New York City, and a part-time resident of Stockbridge
- Fredric D. Rutberg — former Berkshire County attorney and judge who resides in Stockbridge
- Robert G. Wilmers — The longtime chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., and part-time resident of Stockbridge.
Stanford Lipsey died in November 2016 without ever having the chance to visit New England Newspapers. His share of the enterprise has passed on to his wife, Judi Lipsey.
Robert G. Wilmers died in December 2017. During his tenure as a co-owner, Mr. Wilmers won the respect of New England Newspapers Inc. employees for having learned the business through his genuine effort to know about them.
The board of directors of NENI currently consists of Hans Morris, Fredric Rutberg and Judi Lipsey — plus Martin C. Langeveld, who was long associated with the company’s newspapers under the ownership of both the Millers and MediaNews Group.