Seems that Tribune Publishing Chairman Michael Ferro wants to turn the tables on Gannett by making an offer to buy the owner of USA Today, respected industry watcher Ken Doctor writes today in PoliticoMedia.
Ferro reportedly told five dozen Los Angeles Times sales employees on Tuesday that “I have lawyers working on it.”
That would be an amazing development after Tribune rejected Gannett’s uninvited $15-a-share offer, equal to $864 million including debt. Gannett has a market value of $1.86 billion.
If Ferro has access to that much money, Doctor wonders, then why wouldn’t he simply top Gannett’s offer and take Tribune private?
Tribune isn’t commenting on the report. But Gannett CEO Robert Dickey took it seriously enough to send a reassuring letter to his employees. It was filed at the SEC because it also touches on his effort to persuade Tribune shareholders to signal their support for a deal by withholding their votes for its directors at the June 2 annual meeting.
Dickey says the news company “does not comment on rumors or speculation” — a phrase companies often use to disparage journalism that they prefer to not address.
He adds, though, that Gannett is still “committed” to its bid for Tribune.
The bottom line: “For now, it should be business as usual: Our job remains to continue to provide our audiences, customers and communities with the dedication they have come to expect.”
On Wednesday, Oakland Capital Management — Tribune’s No. 2 shareholder with 14.8% of the shares — sent a letter to the publisher reiterating its hope for deal talks with Gannett.
Ferro’s plans to build the Los Angeles Times and accelerate Tribune’s digital transition, Oaktree says, “appear to be preliminary and involve great execution risk. Companies with much greater resources than Tribune and with a substantial head start are struggling in a rapidly changing environment to effect digital change that is profound enough and quick enough to overcome the outgoing tide of print revenues.”