Gannett Buys Rival Green Bay Paper, Plus 22 Others

By: Jennifer Saba

Another independent newspaper bites the dust.

The Green Bay News-Chronicle (Click for QuikCap), which has been duking it out with the competing Gannett paper for years, has finally given up the fight. Today, Gannett Co. Inc. announced that it was acquiring that paper in addition to 22 other newspapers and shoppers and 11 specialty publications owned by Brown County Publishing of Denmark, Wis. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ellen Leifeld, a vice president in Gannett’s Midwest Newspaper group, said in a statement that there are no immediate plans to change operations. “We want to spend some time to better understand the publications, get to know the employees, and develop a plan to carry on the tradition that Frank started 51 years ago when he and his wife, Agnes, bought their first weekly newspapers in Denmark, Wisconsin.”

Frank Wood, chairman of board at Brown County Publishing, said in a statement, “Letting go after so long is not easy. I have been immersed in work I love all my adult life, and I feel privileged to have done so. Now I feel it is time for a change.”

The Green Bay News-Chronicle has had a storied past. According to Wood, the morning paper was started in 1972 by a group of strikers from the rival paper, Green Bay Press-Gazette (now owned by Gannett), which was eventually bought by Wood who kept it going at all costs. Early this year, Wood told E&P, “With the exception of two years in the 1980s, I’ve lost money every year. Don’t you think I would know better?” he quipped.

The scrappy paper (daily circulation about 6,600) continued to do battle with the more established Press-Gazette (daily circ about 67,300) by implementing new programs to boost readership and circulation. Earlier this year, the paper asked readers of its Web site for voluntarily subscriptions. The free site had great success with its Green Bay Packer coverage, averaging 80,000 unique visitors per month with millions of hits, according to Wood. One woman sent in a check for $144.

“We’ve been fighting the fight up here with Gannett for 24 years now,” Wood said earlier this year. The battle ended early this morning when the deal finally closed.

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