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 Florida Times-Union, to GateHouse Media.
The sale includes 10 other 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.
“We all will miss the Morris family and its steady oversight of our business for more than three decades, and its commitment to quality journalism,” said Mark Nusbaum, president of The Times-Union.
“At the same time, we look forward to working with our new ownership at GateHouse, and assure our readers we will continue to provide thorough and comprehensive coverage of our community going forward.”
“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, Nusbaum will continue in his role as publisher of The Times-Union. 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 Florida Times-Union building and property consisting of 18 acres of waterfront property in downtown Jacksonville along the St. Johns River. The family is currently exploring options for development of the site for mixed use, including offices, a hotel or multifamily housing.
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 CEO. “For more than 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, in addition to The Florida Times-Union, are The Topeka (Kansas) Capital-Journal, The Augusta Chronicle, the Savannah Morning News, the Athens Banner-Herald, The St. Augustine Record, the Amarillo Globe-News and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in Texas, the Conway (Ark.) Log Cabin Democrat, 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.”