GateHouse to Buy Canton Paper and 8 Others

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By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press

GateHouse Media Inc. said Tuesday that it agreed to buy nine newspapers from Copley Press Inc. for $380 million, expanding its presence in the Midwest.

The purchase includes the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star, the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., The Repository in Canton, Ohio, and four other daily newspapers in those areas, with a total combined daily circulation of 241,060. The deal also includes the purchase of two weekly newspapers with a combined circulation of 34,918.

GateHouse, based in Fairport, N.Y., said it would continue Copley’s “outstanding stewardship.” It expects to close the deal by the end of April.

“These newspapers are dominant local news providers in the markets they serve, with a rich tradition of journalistic excellence and local advertising reach, and therefore fit perfectly into the business strategy of GateHouse Media,” said Michael E. Reed, chief executive officer.

Hal Fuson, a Copley senior vice president, confirmed the price and said a deal was signed Tuesday. He did not elaborate on financial terms and declined to say if there were other bidders.

GateHouse publishes 74 daily newspapers with total circulation of 386,000, 226 weekly newspapers with total paid circulation of about 525,000 and free circulation of about 477,000, according to its annual report filed Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It also publishes 113 shoppers with total circulation of about 1.9 million.

Its three largest daily newspapers are in the Boston area: The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., the Enterprise in Brockton, Mass., and the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass.

The company posted a loss of $1.6 million on revenue of $314.9 million last year.

The sale leaves San Diego-based Copley with one daily newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune. The privately held company plans to keep its flagship paper and continue operating its wire service, Copley News Service.

In December, Copley sold the Daily Breeze and three weekly newspapers to Hearst Corp. in a deal that will eventually transfer ownership of the Los Angeles-area paper to Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc.

Financial details of that deal were not disclosed. But in court documents filed at the time, the purchase price was estimated at $25 million for a deal that included the Palos Verdes Peninsula News, The Beach Reporter and More San Pedro.

GateHouse shares fell 1.2 percent, or 24 cents, to $19.70 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, then rebounded 7 cents in after-hours trading.

?GateHouse is an aggressive, young newspaper company, and I think they are going to be good owners, ? said David Greenfield, president of Copley Ohio Newspapers and publisher of The Repository, in a statement in the Canton paper. ?They understand the newspaper business and what it takes to grow in today?s complex and competitive media environment.?

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