Gannett Inc. has been pursuing a purchase of digital publisher Gizmodo Media Group, according to people familiar with the matter, an effort that could be complicated by the takeover approach the USA Today owner received this week from a hedge fund-backed rival.


GCI, -3.55%

 is one of a few serious bidders remaining in an auction of Gizmodo Media, the owner of assets including the eponymous technology website as well as Deadspin and Jezebel, one of the people said. Other parties that have expressed interest since Gizmodo Media was put up for sale by Univision Communications Inc. in July include Bryan Goldberg, owner of website, and an unnamed private-equity firm.

MNG Enterprises Inc., better known in the news industry as Digital First Media, sent a letter to Gannett on Monday revealing it had taken a 7.5% stake in the company and proposing to acquire it for $12 a share, or around $1.4 billion. It also urged Gannett to seek other bidders.

In the letter, Digital First accused the newspaper publisher’s management of poor stewardship and of damaging the company’s financial position by making several “aspirational digital deals” that haven’t paid off. It demanded that Gannett put all digital acquisitions on hold and hire bankers to review strategic alternatives.

Digital First, which owns roughly 200 publications including the Denver Post, also indicated it could launch a proxy fight to replace Gannett board members. In addition to USA Today, Gannett owns and operates dozens of other publications such as the Arizona Republic.

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