Jones, lawyer say Hermes doesn’t publish Messenger

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hermes Publications LLC — which recently lost control of three weekly newspapers in a court battle with the publications’ former owner — does not publish the Keysville-based Southside Messenger, an attorney for the newspaper said Friday in a letter and email to The Farmville Herald.

The Southside Messenger is not published by Hermes Publications, LLC, nor is it any way related to that entity,” wrote Benjamin N. Spence, a Blackstone attorney with Hawthorne & Hawthorne, which represents The Messenger.

Email newsletter signup

Evan Jones, assistant editor of The Messenger and former publisher of The Dinwiddie Monitor, The Prince George Journal and The Sussex-Surry Dispatch, told a Herald reporter: “To be perfectly honest with you, Hermes Publications LLC is not The Southside Messenger and has not ever been The Southside Messenger. So, you need to talk with Gary (Elder, an attorney with Hawthorne & Hawthorne), and I’ll direct any comment to Gary.”

The Messenger’s website on Tuesday morning, four days after Spence’s letter to The Herald, continued to list “Hermes Publications©” in the newspaper’s logo at the top of the home page.

Hermes Publications LLC is registered with the Virginia Corporation Commission with a principal office at 490 Railroad Ave. in Keysville, the same address as The Messenger, a weekly newspaper that distributes in Charlotte, Prince Edward and Lunenburg counties. E. Averett Jones, editor of The Messenger and Evan Jones’ father, is Hermes’ registered agent, according to the Corporation Commission’s website.

Websites for The Dinwiddie Monitor and The Sussex-Surry Dispatch, on the day Hermes lost possession of the newspapers, said the newspapers were part of “a family of local newspapers, including … the Southside Messenger.

The Virginia Press Association’s 2015 Total Media Directory lists Hermes Publications as The Messenger’s owner.

Until Oct. 1, the masthead in The Messenger’s weekly print edition said, “Published weekly except for the week after Christmas by: Hermes Publications, P.O. Box 849, Keysville, Va. 23947.” That reference, as well as “Hermes Publications©” in the logo at the top of the front page, were removed in the edition dated Oct. 8, two months before a Dinwiddie County Circuit Court judge ordered Hermes Publications to pay nearly $800,000 to Page Publications LLC.

The Progress-Index of Petersburg reported last week that Page Publications, owned by Tom and Bobbie Page, had returned as owner of The Dinwiddie Monitor, The Prince George Journal and The Sussex-Surry Dispatch after a two-year legal battle with Hermes.

On March 8, Chatham-based Womack Publishing Co. purchased the three newspapers, according to a press release from the firm, which also owns the Times-Virginian in Appomattox and the South Hill Enterprise among its 18 newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina.

According to The Progress-Index, the legal dispute between Hermes and Page began in 2014, about six months after Hermes bought the three weekly newspapers in December 2013. “The purchase of the newspapers was for $900,000 that involved $150,000 down and a $750,000 promissory note, according to Thorsen and court records,” The Progress-Index reported.

Under the purchase agreement, Hermes Publications was to pay Page Publications $8,547.79 a month for nine years, according to court records. However, Hermes failed to make the monthly payments beginning in May 2014, according to court records.