LEO local and Yarmuth once again!

Apr 30, 2014 at 5:00 am

It’s hard to believe it’s almost been 15 years since I first met John Yarmuth. He was holed up in his street-view office when LEO resided in the Billy Goat Strut building on East Main. His office was cluttered from ceiling to floor with golf publications, crumpled up newspapers and various knickknacks one acquires from working at an alt-weekly, and he apologized for the mess several times during our brief encounter. 

I was there to interview with then-editor Cary Stemle, but I was whisked in first to meet with John. He was quiet yet inquisitive, and he talked about his passion for LEO and what the paper meant to him. I was immediately taken by his sincerity and wanted to join whatever team he was assembling. I became a LEO employee soon after that meeting and have been fighting his fight ever since, even after the paper was sold in 2003.

Well, it looks like LEO is back on Team Yarmuth. As of yesterday, LEO has been sold to John’s son Aaron, who has appeared many times in these pages — whether it be in John’s memorable Father’s Day columns, or in Aaron’s own guest columns. Everyone at LEO, myself included, is thrilled to once again be affiliated with a Yarmuth, and once again be local. I have no doubt Aaron will take LEO to new heights and reinforce our mission to continue to be your tried-and-true community rag for events, music news, entertainment, astrology, sex advice, opinion, local government and in-depth journalism.

Aaron is leading a group of local investors in purchasing the paper. “LEO Weekly has been a part of my life since I was a child, and I am tremendously happy and proud to have the opportunity to help craft the next page in the paper’s life,” he says. “I am not sure I would recognize a Louisville without LEO, and I am committed to maintaining our position as the progressive voice in our community. I would like to thank (SouthComm CEO) Chris Ferrell for this opportunity, as well as all of the time, energy and passion he committed to our beloved publication.”

Founded in 1990 by John Yarmuth, Robert Schulman, Dudley Saunders, Mary Caldwell and Denny Crum, LEO was locally owned and operated for 13 years before it was purchased by media companies with corporate headquarters out of state — first in 2003 by Times Publishing Co. of Pennsylvania and then again in 2008 by SouthComm Communications of Nashville.

SouthComm’s Ferrell met with staff yesterday for the formal announcement. “SouthComm is pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement to return LEO Weekly to a local ownership group,” he said. “While I will miss having Louisville as part of our family of papers, I can’t imagine a better outcome for the paper long term than returning it to the hands of the family that founded it.”

In his inaugural letter to readers in 1990, John Yarmuth wrote, “LEO will be a community forum in which ideas can be exchanged and debated in a FREE medium.”

Another founding principle LEO is recommitting to, as Yarmuth wrote in 1990, is “It has to be fun! We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we know the world already is saturated with media and politicians and a lot of other people who take themselves much too seriously. So if we seem a little eccentric at times, please have patience — we’re trying to be eccentric all the time.”

Here’s to Louisville’s Eccentric Observer, once again local and once again Yarmuth.