Hutchinson-based Harris Enterprises Inc. has engaged a broker to sell the six newspapers it owns — including The Hays Daily News. The company engaged Dirks, Van Essen and Murray, the leading merger and acquisition firm in the U.S. newspaper industry.

“We are at the very beginning of a process that will likely take six months,” said Bruce Buchanan, president of Harris Enterprises. “While many family-owned newspaper companies that go on the market don’t announce anything until a sale is completed, we feel the need to be transparent with our employees and communities.”

Buchanan said the owners hope to sell all six newspapers as a group, but recognize it might be necessary to deal with multiple buyers.

“Uncertainty about who are the new owners will be will no doubt lead to anxiety at all our locations,” Buchanan said. “However, we have professional employees who take pride in what they do every day. I have confidence they will continue to produce the same kind of high quality products they always have while we seek a buyer.”

Harris family involvement in the newspaper business started when Ralph Harris purchased the Ottawa Herald in 1907. Ownership now includes the third and fourth generations of the family.

“The families reached this decision reluctantly,” Buchanan said. “They are proud of what these newspapers have accomplished, and have taken great pride in making their communities better.”

Ralph Harris and his two sons, John P. and Sidney, extended their newspaper ownership with the purchase of the Chanute Tribune in 1927. In 1933, John and Sid added The Hutchinson News. The Burlington (Iowa) Hawk Eye was purchased in 1941 and the Salina Journal in 1949. The Garden City Telegram joined the group in 1953, the Olathe Daily News in 1959, The Hays Daily News in 1970, and the Parsons Sun in 1982. Olathe was sold in 1998, and Chanute and Parsons were sold in 2008. Several other newspapers and many radio stations have been bought and sold over the years.

Descendants of John P. and Sidney Harris remain as the primary stockholders. An employee stock ownership plan also owns a portion of the company, along with four other minority stockholders.

Patrick Lowry is editor and publisher of The Hays Daily News.?