By MICHAEL J. DE LA MERCED
The Gannett Company said on Tuesday that it planned to spin off its print operations, including USA Today, becoming the latest media company to break itself up.
The separation follows in the footsteps of many other media companies – from Rupert Murdoch‘s empire to Time Warner Inc. to E.W. Scripps – that have spun off their print arms in recent years.
Such transactions are intended to free faster-growing television and other media operations from slower-growing newspaper and magazine businesses, pushing up stock prices while allowing each division to focus on its own needs. Investors have shown far more appetite for broadcast assets than newspapers, which have continued to struggle as advertising revenue has declined.
By splitting up, however, Gannett may also be putting one or both of its soon-to-be independent businesses up for grabs. Shortly after shedding its magazines, Time Warner was approached by Mr. Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for a big media company merger that Time Warner has so far rebuffed.
Gannett has moved to expand its broadcasting business in recent years, notably by buying the Belo Corporation for $1.5 billion last year to nearly double the number of stations it owns.
The publishing business, which will keep the Gannett name, will own 81 daily newspapers and the British news company Newsquest. Its flagship title will remain USA Today, which the company has sought to build out into a digital news giant.
Gannett to Shed Newspaper Biz