USA Today publisher Gannett was entertaining an acquisition of a major newspaper company — widely believed to be Tribune Publishing — as recently as June 10 even as it held parallel talks to sell itself to New Media.
In an SEC filing Thursday, the company that Gannett wanted to buy is identified only as “Company A.” But one observer noted after reading the S-4 document that the target “is clearly Tribune Publishing.”
After three months of talks, the Gannett board said in an April 24 letter to “Company A” that it wanted to postpone the acquisition talks while still beating back a hostile takeover bid from Heath Freeman’s hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, and MNG Media. The Gannett board turned-thumbs down on MNG at its late- May shareholders meeting.
But the board was frantically looking at other deals.
As recently as June 10, the Gannett board was still holding internal discussions about whether to go it alone, acquire Tribune — “Company A” — or allow a takeover by New Media Investment Group, parent of Gatehouse Media.
It would be nearly two months later on Aug. 5 before New Media unveiled its cash-and-stock deal to buy Gannett, originally valued at $1.4 billion, but now down to $1.2 billion as New Media’s stock slumped.
Gannett and New Media declined to comment, beyond the SEC documents released Thursday, on the ticktock leading to the pending merger.