Publisher’s Letter: Wausau Daily Herald/Gannett sold to Tokyo-based holding company

Dear Reader,

The news is out. Gannett just sold itself to the highest bidder. Let’s take a look at this.

According to an article in USA Today, a Gannett-owned newspaper, Gannett was acquired by Gatehouse Media, which is owned by New Media Investment Group, which is owned by Fortress Investment group, which is owned by Softbank. Is that a little bewildering to you? I think it is for all of us.

Gannett and Gatehouse together will own a lot of newspapers. I mean a lot. How many? According to that same article, over 260 daily newspapers. That includes the Daily Herald right here in North Central Wisconsin. It will be the biggest newspaper company by number of publications our nation has ever seen.

Now, who is Softbank, the new ultimate owner of the combined Gannett-Gatehouse conglomerate?

That’s a good question, and a little hard to answer. We know it is based in Tokyo, Japan, and that it has holdings in telecommunications, e-commerce, finance, broadband, and marketing. Beyond that, what do we know about Gannett’s Tokyo-based masters?

The rationale for this merger is that it will save $250 to $300 million dollars. I think we all know what that means. USA Today reports “Gannett had about 16,980 employees at the end of 2018, while GateHouse had about 10,638 employees, according to their securities filings.” Want to bet how many of those employees will still be with the combined entity a year from now?

In the final analysis, the folks remaining at the newly merged Gannett/Wausau Daily Herald will be under pressure to make money for their Tokyo, Japan-based private equity owners in order to keep their jobs. How much time will that give them for reporting our local news here in North Central Wisconsin? How much of the money they collect from us will stay here in the community or be shipped overseas to their new masters?

I think we know the answers to these questions, and they don’t bode well for our community.

Patrick Wood


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