• Deal includes digital properties, community papers, magazines
  • Gannett CEO wants to be leading news provider in New Jersey

Gannett Co. bought the closely held owner of two northern New Jersey newspapers, including The Record in Bergen County, bolstering its presence in the state.

Gannett acquired The Record, the Herald News and their affiliated digital properties, according to a statement Wednesday. Terms weren’t given. Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and more than 100 other daily newspapers, expects the deal to bring in about $90 million in annual revenue.

The deal fits Gannett’s strategy of buying mid-size newspapers with strong news-gathering and community support, according to Paul Sweeney, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. In 2013, The Record was credited with breaking the Bridgegate scandal involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The next year, it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a series on the heroin epidemic in New Jersey.

“Gannett continues to execute on its local market growth strategy,” CEO Robert Dickey said in a statement. “This latest acquisition positions the company to be the leading news provider in the state of New Jersey.”

Gannett, which already owns newspapers in the state, including Home News Tribune, Asbury Park Press, and Courier-Post, purchased the North Jersey Media Group, owned by the Borg family. The group, one of the last remaining family owned publishers, also publishes 49 community newspapers and several glossy magazines, which were included in the sale.

Tribune Publishing

Last month, Gannett bought ReachLocal, a digital marketing firm that serves local businesses, for $156 million.

Gannett has said it will forge ahead with its hostile takeover bid for Tribune Publishing Co., which includes the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times and was recently renamed Tronc Inc. The company made two offers -- one in April for $12.25 a share and a second in May for $15 a share. Both included the assumption of debt, which was $385 million as of March 27. Tronc’s board rejected the bids as too low and not in shareholders’ best interests.

Few large targets remain in the newspaper industry, where circulation and ad revenue are in decline. Other closely held peers include Cox Media Group’s newspapers, Hearst Corp. and the Newhouse family’s Advance Publications Inc. Gannett could still pursue deals in small and mid-size markets, where the company has had the most success, Sweeney said.

Last year, the newspaper business saw the most deals for the largest amount of money since the 2008 financial crisis, with 70 daily newspapers sold for a combined $827 million, according to mergers-and-acquisitions adviser Dirks, Van Essen & Murray. Gannett bought 15 dailies, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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