NewspaperArchive.com has changed ownership in recent years. This article takes an in-depth look at the new owners and reviews the history of the founder and former owner.
Who Owns NewspaperArchive.com?
NewspaperArchive.com was owned by founder Christopher Gill from its launch in 1999 to its purchase in 2020. The operating company, World Archives LLC, was acquired in October 2020 by private equity firm Charles Thayne Capital, which targets investment in technology-based companies in a growth phase.
NewspaperArchive.com is one of the first purchases by Charles Thayne Capital, an equity firm that was only established the year before the buyout.
Charles Thayne Capital was co-founded in 2019 by Chicago-based investor Brian Gornick and Utah-based investor Matt Marsh.
Former owner Christopher Gill is still involved with operations. This is no surprise, given his decades of experience in negotiating contracts with regional newspapers.
Why Did Christopher Gill Sell NewspaperArchive.com?
A quick note: World Archives LLC was the company that owned the brand and website. But most customers would recognize NewspaperArchive.com as the company. So, I’ll use the brand name in this article.
As far as I’m aware, Christopher Gill hasn’t commented publically on the sale of NewspaperArchive.com.
But I came across this interesting quote from a job posting for an Account Executive shortly after the acquisition:
For the past 23 years, the company has been run as a lifestyle business, but with a recent investment and a new management team, we are looking to grow and are trying to get the right team in place to take this business to the next level.Job post on JobSearcher.com
This statement is a window into where the company was, and where it may be going.
Under Gill’s ownership, the online archives company had continued domestic and international growth over two decades.
Gill’s small team negotiated exclusive contracts with a growing number of American regional newspapers. And unlike rival GenealogyBank, his company expanded internationally with partnerships with newspapers in countries worldwide.
In my view, NewspaperArchive.com struggled to maintain the quality of its technology base and its customer service alongside its content expansion. This happens with a “lifestyle business” that grows beyond its founder.
As a consequence, the company’s reputation for customer service had deteriorated in recent years. You can read more in my upcoming review of NewspaperArchive.com.
One way to improve matters was a significant investment in the company structures.
Selling to an investment firm can be difficult for a founder. The investors parachute in a new management team to take over the direction of the company. But Gill may have welcomed taking a step back from the overall management of the business.
So, what comes next? Charles Thayne Capital (CTC) is a very young company, so they don’t have much track record to examine!
However, both two co-founders have interesting backgrounds. I’ll look at the investors in the next sections.
Brian Gornick, Major Investor In NewspaperArchive.com
This name may ring a bell if you’re an ice hockey fan, and yes..it’s the same guy.
Air Force and Ice Hockey
Brian Gornick was raised in Minnesota, and he joined the U.S. Air Force after school. He studied business operations at the Air Force Academy, where he also captained the ice hockey team.
Gornick was a 1999 NHL draft pick for the Anaheim Ducks and spent several years as a professional ice hockey player. He juggled hockey with his military duties and became a commissioned officer in 2002.
He was on course to join the U.S. team for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, wrist and shoulder injuries curtailed his professional sports career.
During this time, Gornick had continued as a reservist for the Air Force. Eventually, he embarked on a career in investment.
Gornick’s investment career
Gornick took a summer internship in 2008 with Morgan Stanley, and then joined private equity firm Accel-KKR in San Francisco. He subsequently moved on to Golden Gate Capital.
Ultimately, Gornick went back to his family roots in the Midwest. He joined the Chicago-based equity firm GTCR in 2017 where he spent a couple of years investing in technology companies.
In 2019, he partnered with Matt Marsh to form a new investment company: Charles Thayne Capital.
Matt Marsh, Major Investor In NewspaperArchive.com
When I cover the backgrounds of people involved in genealogy-focused companies, Utah often plays a big role.
The Mormon tradition of documenting family history has had a big influence on the careers of several Utah business founders. You can check out my article about the ownership of Ancestry.com as an example (Ancestry own rival Newspapers.com).
So, I wasn’t surprised to learn that investor Matt Marsh has a Utah background. Marsh took a degree in finance at the University of Utah.
Marsh joined UBS Investment Bank in 2009, where he specialized in investing in technology-based companies.
He moved on to Sorenson Capital in 2011, a private equity firm based in Salt Lake City. Marsh spent eight years with the company, eventually being appointed Managing Director.
In 2019, Marsh left Sorenson Capital to found Charles Thayne Capital with Brian Gornick
The Sorenson Connection
The name “Sorenson” rang a bell for me from the world of genetic genealogy. It took a while to dig up the connections, but here you go…
James Lee Sorenson, a highly successful technology entrepreneur, was one of the co-founders of Sorenson Capital.
James Lee is a son of the late billionaire businessman and philanthropist James Levoy Sorenson. The senior Sorenson had funded a major genetic project at Brigham-Young University to build a worldwide DNA database.
This database was purchased in 2012 by Ancestry.com as the Utah-based genealogy company moved into DNA testing. I wrote about it in an article on Ancestry’s ventures into Y and mtDNA tests.
This was the same year that Ancestry launched Newspapers.com. That’s just a coincidence! But I find the historic interconnections interesting.
Christopher Gill, NewspaperArchive.Com And World Archives
Now that we’ve looked at the current owners, I’ll walk through the corporate history of the NewspaperArchive.com brand.
The story starts in the late 1970s in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Local company Crest Information Technologies was involved in microfilming corporate documents and newspapers. The company wanted to specialize in software, and they sold their microfilm division to Christopher Gill in 1976.
Gill’s company, Heritage Microfilm, began to specialize in transforming newspaper microfilm into a digital format.
Christopher Gill eventually launched NewspaperArchive.com in 1999.
NewspaperArchive.com in the 2000s
Other companies in this space were digitizing all kinds of documents from church records to legal transcripts. Gill’s success was to focus on providing online access to search historic newspapers.
At a conference in 2016, Gill noted that his company realized early on that most people searched newspapers for people, not news. His customers were looking for grandma and grandpa.
Back in 2000, their big rival NewsBank also spotted that customers were searching newspaper content for obituaries. You can read more in our article on why NewsBank launched GenealogyBank.com.
Likewise, NewspaperArchive.com grew through the 2000s with the growing enthusiasm for family history research.
For the last two decades, several subscription companies have competed for exclusive access to newspaper titles across the United States.
The big three websites are Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank.com, and NewspaperArchive.com.
And NewspaperArchive.com was very successful. By 2009, they had contracts with nearly 3,000 titles across 748 U.S. cities.
Christopher Gill saw the potential for working with international newspapers. By 2018, NewspaperArchive.com had nearly 10,000 titles globally.
Growth accelerated to about 15 thousand titles in 2020 before the buyout.
World Archives and an international focus
At some point, the ownership of NewspaperArchive.com moved from Heritage Microfilm to Wolrd Archives Inc. This was a legal change, as the ownership was still under Christopher Gill.
However, there were other major changes. Gill and his family moved to live in the Cayman Islands, and World Archives was registered there. I’m sure there were tax benefits, but Christopher and his wife Debora made continuing contributions to local island charities.
Heritage Microfilm once had up to eighty staff in Cedar Rapids, but most of the production side of digitization moved to Mexico. In this video, Gill refers to off-shoring production, and corrects himself to “near-shore”.
The Iowa presence dwindled to about ten local staff in the 2010s. This goes along with my perception of the company as a lifestyle business for the founder.
It will be interesting to see how the new owners and management team change direction.
Using The Free Trial
The company offer a seven-day trial (affiliate link) that gives you full access to all the content.