AUGUSTA, Ga. – As part of a strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle publications, property development and new business, Morris Communications Co. announced today that it has signed an agreement to sell the assets of Morris Publishing Group, including the Juneau Empire, the Kenai Peninsula Clarion and the weekly Homer News, to GateHouse Media.
The sale includes 11 daily newspapers, numerous non-daily publications and associated websites and digital assets. The transaction is expected to close on October 2, 2017. Terms were not disclosed.
“The sale of the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion is bittersweet,” said Deedie McKenzie, publisher of both papers. “The Morris family has been tremendously committed to our papers, however Gatehouse is a dynamic company that understands community journalism. The papers will get the benefit of having the resources available from a large, national company while continuing to have the guidance from the Morris family. I’m extremely pleased that we will be joining their team.”
“Since my father took a job as bookkeeper at The Chronicle in 1929, our family has been dedicated to journalism, and to the readers and advertisers in the communities we serve,” said William S. “Billy” Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications. “Although this has been a difficult decision for me, we have found a wonderful buyer for the newspapers in GateHouse, as they are strongly committed to providing good community coverage for readers and effective solutions for advertisers.”
Under terms of the sale, Deedie McKenzie will remain as publisher of the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion. Billy Morris will continue as publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and will oversee editorial-page policy for the three Morris newspapers in Georgia. The Morris family will retain ownership of the Juneau Empire building and property on Egan Drive, where the Juneau Empire will remain in the multi-tenant facility.
GateHouse Media is a division of New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded company (NEWM) on the New York Stock Exchange. It is one of the largest newspaper companies in the country, owning more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.
“GateHouse is very excited to welcome the Morris publications and their employees into our Company,” said Michael E. Reed, New Media President and Chief Executive officer. “For over 80 years, the Morris family has built and operated an incredible collection of local media assets. We are honored that the family has chosen us to uphold the rich tradition of journalism and innovation they have established. This transaction will expand our footprint into new states and add some very attractive markets to our local media portfolio. We see strong synergies between our two companies and look forward to the value creation opportunity that will exist as we combine the portfolios.”
“Every newspaper company in America is battling trends and redirected advertising dollars, so it is necessary for newspapers to be part of a large newspaper group to build and maintain the necessary resources to compete,” said Morris. We are deeply grateful for the many friendships and business relationships we have enjoyed for these many years and look forward to the impact the next generation will make.”
William S. (Will) Morris IV, president and CEO of Morris Communications, said, “Although the decision to leave the newspaper business was a tough one for our family, we are enthusiastic about our plans to diversify our business holdings with print and digital communications and real estate development. We have a solid team in place to take the business in a prosperous new direction.”
Daily papers included in the sale are The Augusta Chronicle, the Savannah Morning News and the Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia, The Florida Times-Union and The St. Augustine Record in Florida, the Amarillo Globe-News and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in Texas, The Topeka Capital-Journal in Kansas, the Conway Log Cabin Democrat in Arkansas, and the Juneau Empire and Kenai Peninsula Clarion in Alaska.
Derek May, currently president of Morris Publishing Group, will take a new leadership role as chief operating officer of Morris Communications.
“I’ve considered it a blessing to be around such talented individuals who work for our company,” said May. “These are great people, passionate about what they do, and committed to their communities.”
“We are enthusiastic about our current and future business ventures,” Will Morris said. “With this sale, we will pursue a range of new possibilities. We intend to keep making a difference in the world, as we have for more than 80 years.”