The latest Gannett offer for rival newspaper publisher Tronc is in the mid-$18-a-share range vs. the last known offer of $15, and came during a face-to-face meeting in Los Angeles with Gannett CEO Bob Dickey; Gannett chairman John Jeffry Louis; Tronc chairman Michael Ferro, and Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn.
That’s according to a report yesterday by industry watcher Ken Doctor of Politico, who’s been bird-dogging the unfolding drama. He says Ferro might agree to a deal at $20 or slightly less.
Wall Street took Doctor’s report seriously enough to bid up Tronc’s TRNC as much as 8% yesterday, before it slid back to a closing price of $16.84, up 3% for the day. Gannett’s GCI closed at $11.93, down less than 1%.
A deal for the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, nine other large newspapers, plus dozens of smaller titles, could have far-reaching implications for The Courier-Journal and its 108 sister titles, depending on how Gannett reallocates personnel and financial resources to absorb the Tronc titles. Louisville is a regional headquarters for a customer service center and a page-production hub handling design work for other dailies in the chain.
Doctor’s latest story is revealing because it’s the first to report the $18 figure — until yesterday, reports only said Gannett was preparing an unspecified higher bid — and it shows Ferro and the board are now engaged in talks. Previously, Tronc had refused to even negotiate, despite pressure from a major hedge fund investor.
Underscoring that last point, Ferro and the board met a week ago to discuss a counter-offer, although it’s unclear whether one was formally made to Gannett, Doctor says. Still, his conclusion yesterday: “It’s apparently no longer a question of whether to sell or not, but for how much.”