GateHouse Media’s parent company, New Media Investment Group, (NYSE:NEWM) announced to Historic City News today an agreement to acquire 79 publications and related assets of Morris Publishing Group, including The St. Augustine Record and The Florida Times-Union, for $120 million.
The acquisition is expected to be finalized on October 2, 2017 and includes Morris’s Main Street Digital group, substantially all weekly and niche print products and all related websites and digital operations.
Tony Bernados, president and publisher of the Record said, “We will continue to develop products and services that enrich the community we have served for nearly 125-years backed by the power and technology of Gatehouse Media, a large national media company.”
Bernados, an 18-year veteran of the media industry, spent the last ten years with Morris Communications in key advertising and revenue roles. Prior to joining Morris Communications, Bernados held positions with Scripps Howard, Evening Post Company, and Block Communications.
Morris Publishing Group, a division of Morris Communications Company, LLC, purchased The Florida Times Union and Jacksonville Journal as well as The St Augustine Record newspapers as part of its acquisition of Florida Publishing Company from the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad in 1982.
Newspaper revenues disappeared when advertisers cut spending on print media and readers shifted to online news. Morris was left saddled with about $482.4 million in debt when the consumer-driven marketplace moved away. Then, on January 19, 2010, the ink-and-paper publisher became one of at least fourteen newspaper owners to file bankruptcy during the prior year. The move protected the Morris family’s private ownership of the publishing company at the expense of bondholders and creditors who suffered more than $178 million in losses through debt erased by order of the bankruptcy court.
Derek May, formerly of St Augustine and president of Morris Publishing Group, will take a new leadership role as chief operating officer of a reorganized company, Morris Media Network.
William S. Morris IV, president and CEO of Morris Communications, said, “We will work closely with the new owners for a smooth transition over the coming weeks.”