RGJ parent threatened

The corporation that owns the Reno Gazette Journal, Gannett Co. Inc., is being targeted by another corporation for a hostile takeover.

Gannett for years vacuumed up small and mid-size newspapers and retooled them to fit a one-size-fits-all pattern. So a takeover would seem to be an encouraging development—except that the potential buyer is a hedge fund called Digital First that Bloomberg Media columnist Joe Nocera described as “notorious as a destroyer of newspapers.” That ran under the headline “Imagine If Gordon Gekko Bought News Empires.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said in a Jan. 26 statement, “We simply can’t accept the cliché that ‘journalism is dying.’ Journalism will only die if we choose not to fight for it—and if journalism dies, our democracy will, too.”

Gannett rejected the offer, which was below share value, and issued a statement: “[T]he Gannett board concluded that MNG’s unsolicited proposal undervalues Gannett and is not in the best interests of Gannett and its shareholders. In addition, Gannett does not believe MNG’s proposal is credible. … Indeed, given MNG’s refusal to provide even the most basic answers to Gannett’s questions, it appears that MNG does not have a realistic plan to acquire Gannett.”

Digital First responded: “MNG will consider its options in the coming days, including nominating a slate of individuals to the Gannett board who agree that Gannett shareholders should decide for themselves whether to accept our premium cash offer or other alternatives for immediate and certain value.”

A Feb. 7 meeting between execs of the two corporations reinforced Gannett’s stance against the deal.

Nieman Journalism Lab director Joshua Benton told the Times, “Digital First is the worst owner of newspapers in America, and they will do their best to draw blood from even Gannett’s already desiccated stone.”

The Nation Magazine got specific: “In 2006, [Digital First] purchased San Jose’s Mercury News for $1 billion and swiftly fired the paper’s staff, sold off its real estate, and carted away the printing presses, gobbling up management fees, tax breaks, and dividends in the process. Only a skeleton of the Merc remains today.”