Report: Newspaper chains Gannett, GateHouse in ‘advanced’ merger talks

Two of the country’s largest newspaper companies are in “advanced talks” to combine.

That’s according to a Wall Street Journal report that cites unidentified people familiar with the matter. It said a deal could be announced in the coming weeks.

The Journal says that Gannett Co., the owner of USA Today, and GateHouse Media, the owner of the Austin American-Statesman, Palm Beach Post and many papers in small- and mid-sized towns, are nearing a deal that would have GateHouse or its parent buy Gannett.

Gannett also owns The Indianapolis Star and several smaller Indiana newspapers. The new companies combined own some 265 papers.

New Media Investment Group, itself a unit of private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, owns GateHouse. Fortress’ owner is Japanese tech giant SoftBank, which also owns U.S. wireless carrier Sprint.

GateHouse, New Media and Fortress did not immediately reply to messages. Gannett declined to comment.

Newspapers have been combining to weather the decline in print ad sales, and a merger could give the combined company a stronger distribution platform for digital ad sales.

The Journal said the merger could lead to layoffs and the consolidation of printing operations.

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