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Gannett wins proxy fight in hostile takeover bid

Holds all 8 board seats in battle with MNG Enterprises and Digital First Media

By David Wildstein, May 16 2019 9:19 am

The companies that launched a hostile takeover bid of the nation’s largest newspaper chains has conceded defeat, acknowledging that the company-backed candidates will win all eight seats on the Board of Directors in a shareholder vote today.

“This is a win for an entrenched Gannett Board that has been unwilling to address the current realities of the newspaper business, and sadly a loss for Gannett and its shareholders,” a statement issued by MNG Enterprises and Digital First Media based on its analysis of preliminary voting results.”

MNG and Digital First had been the target of a $1.4 billion takeover bid since last January.

All eight Gannett director candidates —  John Jeffry Louis, John E. Cody, Stephen W. Coll, Donald E. Felsinger, Lila Ibrahim, Lawrence S. Kramer, Debra A. Sandler and Chloe R. Sladden – were elected, successfully fighting off a challenge from three MNG/Digital First candidates.

“Gannett’s newspapers are critical local resources, and we hope that Gannett’s incumbent Board and Management shift course to embrace a modern approach to local news that will save newspapers and serve communities.  That would be the best outcome,” the statement said.  “If Gannett’s Board does not shift course from overpaying for non-core, aspirational and dilutive digital deals, we believe the stock will drop further.”

Gannett operates eight daily newspapers in New Jersey: The (Bergen) Record, the Asbury Park Press, the Home News Tribune, the Daily Record, the Courier News, the Courier Post, the Herald News and the Daily Journal.

“Consistent with the interactions with our investors leading up to the meeting, this outcome demonstrates that Gannett shareholders recognize the continued progress we have made toward our ongoing digital transformation and agree that our strategic plan is the best path to deliver value for all Gannett shareholders,” Gannett said in a statement.  “Our shareholders also understand that the broad and diverse backgrounds, professional experiences and skills of our directors make them uniquely qualified to oversee Gannett’s achievement of its strategic objectives and transformation plan.”

Gannett says it remains “focused on executing our strategy to create value for our customers and shareholders by continuing to be a news leader and driving growth in digital subscribers, audience engagement and advertising and marketing services revenues, while upholding the company’s commitment to journalistic excellence.”

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