Morris Communications selling newspapers to GateHouse Media

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Morris Communications will sell its 11 daily newspapers and other publications in those markets to New Media Investment Group, the parent company of GateHouse Media Inc., the companies announced Wednesday.

New Media said in a news release it will pay $120 million to purchase Morris Publishing Group, the newspaper division of Georgia-based Morris Communications.

The sale includes The Augusta Chronicle, The Savannah Morning News and The Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia; The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville and The St. Augustine Record in Florida; the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and Amarillo Globe News in Texas; the Topeka Capital-Journal in Kansas; the Log Cabin Democrat of Conway, Arkansas; and the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion of Kenai in Alaska.

Family-owned Morris Communications has operated newspapers for more than 70 years. William S. Morris Jr., hired as a bookkeeper at The Augusta Chronicle in 1929, bought a controlling interest in the newspaper with his wife and a friend in 1945. The couple's son, William S. Morris III, joined the company in 1956 and remains chairman of Morris Communications.

"Since 1929, the Morris family has had a great love and passion for journalism and the local communities that they serve," Morris said in a statement. "However, every newspaper company in America is battling trends and redirected advertising dollars, so it is necessary for newspapers to be part of a large newspaper group to build and maintain the necessary resources to compete."

The deal allows Morris to remain as publisher of The Augusta Chronicle. He will also oversee editorial-page policies at the three Georgia newspapers. Morris Communications will still publish magazines, sell broadband services and operate other business ventures. The company said the sale should be finalized in October.

GateHouse Media owns more than 130 daily newspapers and other publications in 36 U.S. states. The Morris acquisition will add 79 total publications, including a number of weekly newspapers, plus all related websites and digital operations.

"For over 80 years, the Morris family has built and operated an incredible collection of local media assets," Michael E. Reed, New Media's president and CEO, said in a statement. "We are honored that the family has chosen us to uphold the rich tradition of journalism and innovation they have established. This transaction will expand our footprint into new states and add some very attractive markets to our local media portfolio."

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