Gannett’s mission to own newspaper and publishing company, Tronc, is within its reach, according to Politico.
Confidential sources have told Politico that asset purchase agreement drafts have exchanged hands between Gannett and Tronc (formerly known as Tribune Publishing), and an announcement of a deal could comes as soon as Monday morning. The same sources all said that a meeting of Tronc’s board of directors on Thursday in all probability was about the transaction.
The buy would expand Gannett’s already sizeable portfolio to include Tronc publications Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel, The Baltimore Sun, The Morning Call, Hartford Courant and the San Diego Union-Tribune.
In early August, the Wall Street Journal reported that Gannett Co. increased its offer to purchase Tronc after months of unsolicited offers were rejected by Tronc chairman Michael Ferro.
Gannett’s original offer of $12.25 a share was increased to $15 per share, but Tronc rejected both attempts by Gannett. According to Politico, the third and most recent offer has Tronc execs moving forward with a counter.
Politico’s Ken Doctor, who has been on the inside of this deal from Day One, reported that the August offer “arrived in the mid-$18-a-share range, and came out of an in-person meeting in Los Angeles” that included Gannett CEO Bob Dickey, Gannett chairman John Jeffry Louis, Ferro and Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn. The likely selling price was $18.50 to $19.
Tronc reported second-quarter revenues of $405 million earlier this month, a 1.8 percent drop from the previous year — but it would have been an even steeper 5.9 percent drop were it not for the 2015 acquisition of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Ad revenue was also down by 4.4 percent.
The newly branded Tronc — or Tribune Online Content — pools the company’s various media brands and leverages technology with the intent of delivering more personalized, interactive experiences to Tribune’s 60 million monthly users. The name has been mocked throughout the industry and on social media since it was unveiled in June.