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In 2015, Gannett split into two publicly traded companies, one focusing on newspapers and publishing and the other on broadcasting. The broadcasting company took the name Tegna, and owns about 50 TV stations. The newspaper company inherited the Gannett name. The split was structured so that Tegna is the legal successor of the old Gannett, while the new Gannett is a spin-off.
In November 2019, GateHouse Media merged with Gannett, creating the largest newspaper publisher in the United States, which adopted the Gannett name. Mike Reed was named CEO. Through a series of investment firms, Gannett is partially owned by Japanese conglomerate Softbank.
This section needs expansion with: information on Gannett's early history (1923-1986). You can help by adding to it. (October 2012)
Gannett Company, Inc., was formed in 1923 by Frank Gannett in Rochester, New York, as an outgrowth of the Elmira Gazette, a newspaper business he had begun in Elmira, New York, in 1906. Gannett, who was known as a conservative, gained fame and fortune by purchasing small independent newspapers and developing them into a large chain, a 20th-century trend that helped the newspaper industry remain financially viable. By 1979, the chain had grown to 79 newspapers.
In 1979, Gannett acquired Combined Communications Corp., operator of 2 major daily newspapers, the Oakland Tribune & The Cincinnati Enquirer, seven television stations, 13 radio stations, as well as an outdoor advertising division, for $370 million. The outdoor advertising became known as Gannett Outdoor, before being acquired by Outdoor Systems (previously a division of 3M), before the company was sold to Infinity Broadcasting, which later became part of Viacom, and was part of CBS Corporation, until 2014 when CBS Outdoor went independent and became Outfront Media.
Beginning in 2005 at the Fort Myers News-Press, Gannett pioneered the mojo concept of mobile multimedia journalists, reporters who were initially untethered from conventional newsrooms and drove around their communities filing hyperlocal news in various formats including text for print publication, still photos for print and online publication, and audio and video for the News-Press website. The practice has spread throughout the chain.
On March 7, 2011, Gannett replaced the stylized "G" logo in use since the 1970s (notably used on its TV stations as a corporate/local ID with different animations), and adopted a new company tagline: "It's all within reach."
In 2010, Gannett increased executive salaries and bonuses; for example, Bob Dickey, Gannett's U.S. newspapers division president, was paid $3.4 million in 2010, up from $1.9 million the previous year. The next year, the company laid off 700 U.S. employees to cut costs. In the memo announcing the layoffs, Dickey wrote, "While we have sought many ways to reduce costs, I regret to tell you that we will not be able to avoid layoffs."
Gannett Logo used until March 2011.
In February 2012, Gannett announced that it would implement a paywall system across all of its daily newspaper websites, with non-subscriber access limited to between five and fifteen articles per month, varying by newspaper. The USA Today website became the only one to allow unrestricted access.
On March 24, 2012, the company announced that it would discipline 25 employees in Wisconsin who had signed the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker, stating that this open public participation in a political process was a violation of the company's code of journalistic ethics and that their primary responsibility as journalists was to maintain credibility and public trust in themselves and the organization.
On August 21, 2012, Gannett acquired Blinq Media.
Around the first week of October 2012, Gannett entered a dispute against Dish Network regarding compensation fees and Dish's AutoHop commercial-skip feature on its Hopper digital video recorders. Gannett ordered that Dish discontinue AutoHop on the account that it is affecting advertising revenues for Gannett's television station. Gannett threatened to pull all of its stations should the skirmish continue beyond October 7, and Dish and Gannett fail to reach an agreement. The two parties eventually reached an agreement after extending the deadline for a few hours.
Gannett announced it would not be delaying print deadlines for the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, meaning that next-day newspapers would no longer contain the election's results, instead directing readers to the Internet.
Gannett was sued in October 2019 under the New York state Child Victim's Act by a former paperboy who accused the company of enabling a former district manager to sexually abuse him in the 1980s. This case is currently pending. Four more lawsuits were filed in February 2020. Additionally, two more men filed suit against Gannett for child sex abuse in September 2020, bringing the current total number of plaintiffs to seven. In December 2020, Gannett and its Arizona Republic newspaper were also sued by a former paperboy in the Phoenix, AZ community for enabling its employees to sexually abuse him in the late 1970s.
In March 2020, Gannett announced that due to COVID-19, it will be forced to make a series of cuts and furloughs. Executives will also take a 25% reduction in salary.
Acquisition of Belo Corporation
On June 13, 2013, Gannett announced plans to buy Dallas-based Belo Corporation for $1.5 billion and the assumption of debt. The purchase would add 20 additional stations to Gannett's portfolio and make the company the fourth largest television broadcaster in the U.S. with 43 stations. Because of ownership conflicts that exist in markets where both Belo and Gannett own television stations and newspapers, the use of a third-party company (Sander Media, LLC, owned by former Belo executive Jack Sander) as a licensee to buy stations to be operated by the owner of a same-market competitor and concerns about any possible future consolidation of operations of Gannett- and Belo-owned properties in markets where both own television stations or collusion involving the Gannett and Sander stations in retransmission consent negotiations, anti-media-consolidation groups (such as Free Press) and pay television providers (such as Time Warner Cable and DirecTV) have called for the FCC to block the acquisition.
On December 16, 2013, the United States Department of Justice announced that Gannett, Belo, and Sander would need to divest Belo's station in St. Louis, KMOV, to a government-approved third-party that would be barred from entering into any agreements with Gannett, in order to fully preserve competition in advertising sales with Gannett-owned KSDK. The deal was approved by the FCC on December 20, and it was completed on December 23. On February 28, 2014, Meredith Corporation officially took over full control of KMOV.
Acquisition of London Broadcasting Company stations
On May 14, 2014, Gannett announced the acquisition of six stations from the Texas-based London Broadcasting Company in a $215 million deal, including KCEN-TV (NBC) in Waco-Temple-Bryan, KYTX (CBS) in Tyler-Longview, KIII (ABC) in Corpus Christi, KBMT (ABC/NBC) in Beaumont-Port Arthur, KXVA (FOX) in Abilene-Sweetwater and KIDY (FOX) in San Angelo. The company's COO Phil Hurley will also join Gannett to continue his leadership role at the six stations. The acquisition was completed on July 8, 2014; in total, Gannett stations now serve 83% of households in the state. Post acquisition, Gannett now outright owns and operates their first Fox affiliates, KIDY & KXVA.
Split and further deals
On August 5, 2014, Gannett announced that it plans to split into two independent publicly traded companies, one focusing on its newspapers and publishing, which will retain the Gannett name, and one on broadcasting. Robert Dickey--who currently leads Gannett's newspaper group--will serve as CEO of the former company, leaving Gannett's remaining broadcasting and digital operations under the leadership of Martore. In a statement, she explained that the split plans were "significant next steps in our ongoing initiatives to increase shareholder value by building scale, increasing cash flow, sharpening management focus, and strengthening all of our businesses to compete effectively in today's increasingly digital landscape." Additionally, the company announced that it would buy out the remainder of Classified Ventures--a joint venture between Gannett and several other media companies, for $1.8 billion, giving it full ownership of properties such as Cars.com. On April 21, 2015, Gannett announced that the publishing arm would continue to use the Gannett name, while the broadcasting and digital company would be named Tegna--an anagram of Gannett. The split was completed on June 29, 2015. The split was structured so that the old Gannett changed its name to Tegna, and then spun off its publishing interests as a "new" Gannett Company. The two companies shared a headquarters complex in Tysons Corner for a time, though Gannett has since moved to McLean.
On October 7, 2015, Gannett struck a deal to buy the Journal Media Group for $280 million, giving it control of publications in over 100 markets in the Midwestern and Southern U.S. Similar to what Gannett had earlier done with its broadcasting assets, the Milwaukee-based Journal had separated its publishing and broadcasting arms in April 2015, with the E. W. Scripps Company acquiring the television and radio properties owned by the former's technical predecessor Journal Communications and spinning out their respective publishing operations into Journal Media Group. In December 2015, Gannett announced that its local newspapers would be branded as the "USA Today Network", signifying a closer association with the national USA Today paper.
In April 2016, Gannett made an unsolicited bid to acquire the Tribune Publishing Company for $12.25 per-share, or around $400 million. This deal was rejected by Tribune's shareholders in May 2016; in turn, Gannett increased its offer to around $15 per-share (around $800 million). Although the two companies held talks during the summer and into the fall of 2016, disappointing earning reports for Gannett for the second and third quarters of 2016 caused Gannett to pull out of talks on November 1.
Sale to GateHouse Media and Softbank
In January 2019, Digital First Media made an unsolicited bid to acquire Gannett for $1.36 billion, but it was rejected for being undervalued. In an attempt to pursue a hostile takeover, DFM built up a 7.5% stake of Gannett's public shares. Gannett subsequently accused the company of engaging in a proxy fight. After a failed attempt to place 3 DFM nominees on Gannett's board of directors through a proxy vote on May 16, 2019, DFM sold shares lowering their ownership to 4.2%.
On August 5, 2019, New Media Investment Group, parent of GateHouse Media, announced that it would acquire Gannett. New Media Investment Group is in turn owned by another private equity firm, Fortress Investment Group. Fortress is owned by the Japanese conglomerate Softbank.
Apollo Global Management funded the acquisition with a $1.792 billion loan. The combined company assumed the Gannett name, and Michael E. Reed, the CEO of GateHouse's parent company, was named CEO. The new management team immediately announced it would target "inefficiencies," which could lead to cutbacks at newspapers and reduction in newspaper staff.