Thursday, August 10, 2017

Morris Communications sells all its newspapers (11 dailies, 29 weeklies) to GateHouse Media

Morris Publishing Group, one of the largest family-owned newspaper chains, is selling to one of the largest venture-capital newspaper companies. New Media Investment Group, parent of the GateHouse Media chain, said it will pay $120 million for the 11 dailies and several weeklies owned by Morris, based in Augusta. Ga.

The far-flung Morris owns the Augusta Chronicle, the Athens Banner Herald, the Savannah Morning News, the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, The St. Augustine Record, The Topeka Capital-Journal, the Amarillo Globe-News, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, the Juneau Empire and The Peninsula Clarion in Alaska, the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, Ark.

Its 29 weeklies include Beaufort Today, Bluffton Today and the Jasper County Sun Times in South Carolina, The Homer News in Alaska and the News and Farmer in Louisville, Ga. William S. "Billy" Morris will remain publisher of the paper in Augusta, where his Morris Communications is based, and oversee editorial policy for the Georgia papers. The company said in a news release that "focus its business on lifestyle and niche publications, broadband operations, property development and new business." It quoted Morris as saying, "Every newspaper company in America is battling trends and redirected advertising dollars, so it is necessary for newspapers to be part of a large newspaper group to build and maintain the necessary resources to compete."

"The deal represents further consolidation of the struggling industry," Rick Edmonds writes for The Poynter Institute. "GateHouse, with more than 120 dailies, offers scale with a centralized editing and production center in Austin and a group of system-wide advertising and marketing products . .  . New Media Investment is publicly traded but also has the backing of the huge Fortress Investment Group fund. It has been on a run of acquisitions over the last several years, buying The Columbus Dispatch and Fayetteville Observer among other properties. It has promised to spend $1 billion on acquisitions and with the latest deal is almost there -- at roughly $900 million.  An early acquisition was Halifax Media which included what once were the New York Times Regional Group papers."

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