MNG makes $1.4 bn hostile bid for USA Today publisher Gannett
16 January 2019
Newspaper chain MNG Enterprises Inc, better known as Digital First Media, has offered to buy Gannett Co for $12 a share in cash, an offer that values the publisher of USA Today at around $1.4 billion.
MNG, which publishes the Denver Post and the Boston Herald, already owns a 7.5 per cent stake in Gannett through its managed investment account, making it the company's biggest shareholder.
In a letter to shareholders on Monday the company said "a series of value-destroying decisions made by an unfocused leadership team", including an "ill-fated hostile for Tribune Publishing" have hit the company's bottom line.
MNG Enterprises Inc, controlled by secretive hedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC, said it had approached Gannett’s board and management on multiple occasions about a potential combination, but the latter had not “meaningfully engaged”.
Alden Global, which started buying distressed newspapers a decade ago, now owns newspapers like the Denver Post, the San Jose Mercury News etc. The company, however, faces criticism for ruthless cost-cutting, asset sales and job cuts at the newspapers it acquired.
MNG, one of the largest newspaper holding companies in the United States, owns more than 200 publications. Buying Gannett would give it access to about 100 more newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press.
The USA Today is the largest circulated daily newspaper in the United States, according to a list by market research firm Cision Media Research.
MNG, which holds a 7.5 per cent stake in Gannett, said it will offer $12 per Gannett share, representing a premium of 23 percent to the company’s close on Friday. Gannett’s shares rose 18 percent to $11.52 in afternoon trading.
Gannett is struggling with a fall in revenue and has invested millions to scale up its digital footprint. It is also in the middle of a management shuffle, with chief executive Robert Dickey slated to retire in May this year.
The company said it would review the proposal, which comes three years after Gannett abandoned its plan to merge with Tribune Publishing Co, formerly Tronc Inc, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun.
MNG on Monday also urged Gannett to hire an investment bank to conduct a review of options, including a potential sale, and opposed its digital acquisition strategy.