Tip: GCI ‘seriously’ interested in Daytona paper

Reviving speculation that GCI’s in a buying mood again, a reader says in an e-mail: “Gannett seems to be seriously looking at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Several corporate suits were in town recently and a select group of operating-committee members from Brevard went on a field trip.”

The Daytona paper has been on the sale block since April, when the majority owning Davidson family was forced to find a buyer after losing a costly court challenge brought by minority owner Cox Enterprises. Last spring, two readers here wondered if Gannett might be interested; yesterday’s e-mail, plus an anonymous comment from a second reader, was the first I’d heard about GCI’s possible interest in the paper since May.

It would be noteworthy if Gannett was shopping again. There’s been little market for print papers in some time: values plunged amid increased uncertainty over the industry’s prospects, and the broader economy’s further weakening. Three months ago, for example, Dow Jones & Co. shelved plans to sell its smaller Ottaway Newspapers chain. Buyers fear getting burned by paying too high — which is what happened when private investor groups scooped up the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the The Philadelphia Inquirer at the wrong time.

But Gannett may be a uniquely well-placed suitor for Daytona because it already owns Florida Today, 90 miles south in Brevard County’s Melbourne. GCI could boost profits by eliminating duplicate jobs at the papers, in human resources, accounting, production and editorial. The papers could share printing. And a single publisher and editor could oversee both titles — Gannett’s direction, with its clustering strategy.

Of course, GCI already has its hands full in Florida, the source of so much revenue loss because of the battered real estate market. But that could force the Davidsons to sell at a really bargain price.

The News-Journal has been through several layoffs since the Davidsons offered it for sale. The paper’s site says it employs 850 — which sounds high, based on Gannett metrics. Dayton’s daily circulation is about 100,000, so it averages about 90 employees per 1,000 readers. Florida Today‘s is closer to 80 per 1,000 readers. (These are very rough calculations, based on publicly available data that may be out of date.)

The News-Journal says it is Florida’s last family owned paper; the Davidsons have controlled it since 1928.

At a glance
Daytona: 100,000 weekdays, 120,000 Sundays
Brevard: 79,000 weekdays, 95,000 Sundays

Daytona, Brevard staffers: What have you heard? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Related: A blog devoted to the Daytona paper, although it looks like it’s on hiatus.

[Sources: circulation, News-Journal and GCI’s 2007 Annual Report to shareholders; today’s front pages, Newseum]

7 Responses to “Tip: GCI ‘seriously’ interested in Daytona paper”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    GCI has the money, but Daytona would only make sense at a real discounted purchasing price for these reasons:
    — It has an old Flexo press that would have to be updated.
    — 90 miles distant from Florida Today printing plant stretches the clustering idea. I-95 is really crowded.
    — The area is in a recession for the next six years because of the suspension of the Space Shuttle flights, which will prompt an exodus of well-paid employees all along the coast.
    — Orlando is not the challenge it once was, thanks to Sam Zell. But if the TRB breaks apart, another publisher could look at turning it into a central Fla. paper.
    — It does have a nice building and real estate that could be sold off on the market, but the recession means not in the next few years.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    If clustering is the wave of the future, then why are Wilmington, Del., and Salisbury, Md., just three hours apart, still under separate publishers?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    “95,000 Sundays” That number now-a-days is around 86,000, and that’s what’s printed, not counting returns! And Florida Today has trouble getting their own paper out at a decent time…never mind maybe as suggested, printing in Brevard and running up to Daytona! FT needs to fix it’s own house first but they don’t think anything’s wrong!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Just another good paper for Gannett to buy and run into the ground. That is what they do best after all!

  5. Anonymous Says:

    As far as the DBNJ goes. The 850 employees was pre-layoffs and were the numbers of the WHOLE NJ Copr. (ie. Pennysavers, phonebook and paper). You can take 167 off that number and that is what you will have as of Sept. 28, 2008. As faras circulation goes, I can’t remember the last time we had 100K (weekdays) or 120K (Sunday). It is more like 75K (weekdays) and 102K (Sundays). Also, there is no advertising market here and has not been for the last 6 months. Big, I mean big, accounts have bagged their accounts over that time. It’s only going to get worse. Good luck on trying to get a stanglehold on the coast GCI, this may be the worst move you have made in a long time.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Maybe Florida Today might just hire back some of the employees that cared about their jobs and are having a difficult time finding work.
    I understand Wanda Sabatino is still looking for a job and is still mooning over Florida Today, maybe she’s not so smart!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    12:51,Wanda will never understand why she was let go when she was. If it had happened during the round of layoffs/buyouts, it might have been easier to swallow. She was let go before all the chaos, and she was damn good at her job and she loved what she did.

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