SINCE TAKING THE HELM OF Gannett in 1989, Chief Executive Officer John Curley has chafed at the perception that he was the cautious keeper of a media combine built by his flamboyant predecessor, Al Neuharth. Nothing like a megadeal to shake up old perceptions: On July 24, Gannett announced its largest acquisition ever, the $2.3 billion purchase of Multimedia. Curley's strategy seems clear: Bigger is better. The transaction expands Gannett's stable of small but profitable newspapers and television stations and gives it a foothold in TV syndication and cable, reducing Gannett's dependence on newspapers to 66% of revenues from 82%. Says Smith Barney analyst John Reidy: "It's a very good deal."

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