One of the few remaining newspaper chain giants, Gannett Co. — owner of USA Today and more than 100 other media properties — on Monday offered $815 million to buy Tribune Publishing, whose assets include such major papers as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune as well as the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
If completed, the proposed acquisition would make Gannett the largest operator of newspapers by circulation in Florida.
The move reflects the harsh and ongoing consolidation squeeze among newspapers as the industry struggles with changing advertising demands as readers continue to shift from paper-based to more competitive digital sources for news and information.
According to USA Today, Gannett CEO Robert Dickey on Monday renewed a private April 12 offer to pay $12.25 per share, a 63 percent premium to Tribune Publishing's closing stock price last Friday. Gannett's deal includes assuming $390 million of Tribune's debt outstanding as of the end of last year. Tribune Publishing officials had shown little past interest in a merger, prompting Gannett to make its offer public Monday. Shares of Tribune Publishing increased nearly 53 percent in trading Monday.
If the deal happens, Gannett will substantially boost its newspaper presence in Florida. Gannett currently operates five newspapers in Florida: The Tallahassee Democrat; Florida Today in Melbourne; Naples Daily News; and Treasure Coast Newspapers, including TCPalm in Stuart and the News-Press of Fort Myers.
None of those papers rival the Orlando or Fort Lauderdale papers in circulation size. The Orlando Sentinel is Florida's third largest newspaper while the Sun-Sentinel is fourth. (The independently owned Tampa Bay Times is Florida's largest newspaper.)
Gannett operates its newspaper empire via its USA Today Network, which the company operates to share resources among its large base of newspapers.
Tribune Publishing "fills a number of geographical gaps for us," Gannett's Dickey said. "We think bringing their publications to the USA Today Network strengthens the overall network."
Gannett spun off from its former parent in June of last year, retaining the publishing business but not its broadcast assets.
USA Today is the country's largest newspaper by circulation, followed closely by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Gannett's latest acquisition target, the Los Angeles Times.
Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.