USA TODAY owner Gannett is reportedly in merger talks with newspaper chain GateHouse Media and has had discussions about possible deals with other media companies.
Gannett and GateHouse have discussed a deal that could help them “bulk up and trim costs,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Gannett declined to comment on the report, and GateHouse did not respond to a request seeking comment.
GateHouse is part of New Media Investment Group, which has 156 daily publications and dozens of weekly newspapers. The company’s largest publications include the Austin American-Statesman and the Oklahoman. Many of its properties are much smaller newspapers.
In addition to USA TODAY, Gannett has about 109 other publications, including the Detroit Free Press, Arizona Republic, Indianapolis Star and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The Journal also reported that Gannett has held talks “about potential deals” with Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune and Newsday, and McClatchy, which owns the Miami Herald and the Charlotte Observer.
“We don’t comment on rumors or speculations,” McClatchy spokesperson Jeanne Segal said in an email. Representatives from Tribune were not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Gannett’s stock was up 1.6% to $7.76 in afternoon trading. New Media Investment Group’s stock was up 4.7% to $9.01.
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Gannett is the larger company as measured by the total market value of their stock. Gannett was valued at about $885 million as of Thursday afternoon, while GateHouse was valued at about $547 million.
The reported talks come amid speculation about Gannett’s next move after the company successfully fended off a hostile takeover attempt by newspaper chain MNG Enterprises, which made an unsolicited bid to acquire Gannett and seize control of the company’s board.
Gannett is also poised to name a permanent CEO soon after the retirement, earlier this month, of CEO Robert Dickey.
Media expert Ken Doctor, author of “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get,” wrote May 24 that a Gannett-GateHouse deal “seems plausible.” He also said a Gannett-Tribune deal could still happen after previous deal talks collapsed.
Consolidation, he wrote for the NiemanLab, seems inevitable for the news industry.
“Consolidation means whacking one company’s big headquarters cost, and that savings buys the surviving CEO time to strategize forward,” Doctor wrote. “With a big rollup, we might, at least in the short term, see fewer newsroom layoffs. But that all depends on who the roller-upper is — and how much further ad receipts dive and how much more digital subscriptions grow.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.