Gannett Makes A Bid For Tribune Publishing

Apr 25, 2016
Originally published on April 26, 2016 12:09 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

One of this country's major newspapers companies wants to buy another. Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and the Detroit Free Press among others has said it has offered to buy Tribune Publishing, which puts out the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune. NPR's David Folkenflik is covering this story from New York. David, how big of a deal is this?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, this wouldn't be a big deal if we weren't talking about journalism. The amount of money seems relatively minor these days - $815 million dollars. If you think about a decade ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News went for about $600-plus million. You know, this is a chance where Gannett's being opportunistic. The price of newspapers because of the industry is depressed. And if they needed to borrow money, the cost of borrowing money is next to nothing.

INSKEEP: But they have a chance here to buy another large - relatively-large newspaper company, at least a lot of subscribers and so forth...

FOLKENFLIK: Well, no, it would be a major thing in terms of around the country. You think of Tribune, as you mentioned, in LA, Chicago, my old newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, two big papers in Florida. Gannett owns these major titles, regions, you know, places away from the New York-Washington corridor, so Des Moines - it owns newspapers in Milwaukee and Memphis, the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. In about 120 markets they're operating. And of course, Gannett also owns and publishes USA Today. And they're trying to make a national play with making USA Today sort of the national insert for all these local papers around the country.

INSKEEP: Oh, I can see how that would work. It would be like a national news service for local papers. Is this deal likely to happen?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you could tell from the language in the offer made public this morning that Gannett in fact had approached Tribune privately and been brushed off - that Gannett is saying to the shareholders of the Tribune Company we'll give you a significant premium over what's a pretty depressed share price. And they're having to take this public because the management structure of Tribune has not been embracing.

You know, Tribune has been play in one way or another for a while. The Tribune papers were spun off at the larger Tribune company a couple years back. And this may engender greater offers or different offers to come forward at this time as well.

INSKEEP: Would this reduce the number of independent voices in journalism?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it depends how you interpret that. I think it would have to at least attract the scrutiny of regulators in Washington. But you're not talking about overlapping markets. What you're talking about is an incredible consolidation yet again of corporate ownership over media voices around the country, but not in the same specific market. But yeah, I think people will look carefully at that - they should. It's a real question.

INSKEEP: David, thanks very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's David Folkenflik in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.