Mor­ris sell­ing news­pa­pers to Gate­House Me­dia par­ent

Austin American-Statesman - - MONEY & MARKETS -

Mor­ris Com­mu­ni­ca­tions will sell its 11 daily news­pa­pers and other pub­li­ca­tions in those mar­kets to New Me­dia In­vest­ment Group, the par­ent com­pany of Gate­House Me­dia Inc., the com­pa­nies an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

New Me­dia said in a news re­lease it will pay $120 mil­lion to pur­chase Mor­ris Pub­lish­ing Group, the news­pa­per divi­sion of Ge­or­gia-based Mor­ris Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The sale in­cludes The Au­gusta Chron­i­cle, The Sa­van­nah Morn­ing News and The Athens Ban­ner-Her­ald in Ge­or­gia; The Florida Times-Union of Jack­sonville and The St. Au­gus­tine Record in Florida; the Lub­bock Avalanche-Jour­nal and Amar­illo Globe News in Texas; the Topeka Cap­i­tal-Jour­nal in Kansas; the Log Cabin Demo­crat of Con­way, Arkansas; and the Juneau Em­pire and Penin­sula Clar­ion of Ke­nai in Alaska.

Fam­ily-owned Mor­ris Com­mu­ni­ca­tions has op­er­ated news­pa­pers for more than 70 years. Wil­liam S. Mor­ris Jr., hired as a book­keeper at The Au­gusta Chron­i­cle in 1929, bought a con­trol­ling in­ter­est in the news­pa­per with his wife and a friend in 1945. The cou­ple’s son, Wil­liam S. Mor­ris III, joined the com­pany in 1956 and re­mains chair­man of Mor­ris Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“Since 1929, the Mor­ris fam­ily has had a great love and pas­sion for jour­nal­ism and the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties that they serve,” Mor­ris said in a state­ment. “How­ever, 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 al­lows Mor­ris to re­main as pub­lisher of The Au­gusta Chron­i­cle. He will also over­see ed­i­to­rial-page poli­cies at the three Ge­or­gia news­pa­pers. The com­pany said the sale should be fi­nal­ized in Oc­to­ber.

Gate­House Me­dia owns more than 130 daily news­pa­pers and other pub­li­ca­tions in 36 U.S. states. The Mor­ris ac­qui­si­tion will add 79 to­tal pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing a num­ber of weekly news­pa­pers, plus all re­lated web­sites and dig­i­tal op­er­a­tions. The com­pany’s Cen­ter for News and De­sign — lo­cated in Austin — pro­vides copy edit­ing and page de­sign ser­vices for more than 200 daily, weekly and monthly pub­li­ca­tions, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

“For over 80 years, the Mor­ris fam­ily has built and op­er­ated an in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion of lo­cal me­dia as­sets,” Michael E. Reed, New Me­dia’s pres­i­dent and CEO, said in a state­ment. “We are hon­ored that the fam­ily has cho­sen us to up­hold the rich tra­di­tion of jour­nal­ism and in­no­va­tion they have es­tab­lished. This trans­ac­tion will ex­pand our foot­print into new states and add some very at­trac­tive mar­kets to our lo­cal me­dia port­fo­lio.”

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