Gannett CEO Declares War On WSJ‘s Bloggers

Anatomy of a media fight:

1) On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal‘s Deal Journal blog reported that newspaper chain Gannett might be put up for sale. After analyzing recently released SEC records from the company, they concluded that they “may be hearing the footsteps of a potential acquirer approaching”:

“The filing says, “The plans and agreements were also amended, among other things, to clarify the definition of change in control by specifying the ownership level at which employees would not be deemed to be participating in a management buyout.” Emphasis added because that makes Deal Journal wonder whether a possible management buyout of the company is in the cards.”

2) On Friday, Gannett CEO Craig Dubow sent out an angry memo to employees accusing the Journal of being liars:

“None of the bloggers called and checked with us before speculating that we were preparing for a sale,” Dubow wrote in the memo obtained by Reuters. “We are not.”

Full Gannett memo after the jump.

Neal Ungerleider

SUBJECT: Unwarranted speculation ..

A message from Craig Dubow

Dear co-workers:

I want to put an end to the unwarranted speculation generated by a few bloggers this week. A change in control of Gannett is not in the works or even anticipated.

This handful of bloggers made some incorrect assumptions about information in our quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. None of the bloggers called and checked with us before speculating that we were preparing for a sale. We are not.

What we were doing is making routine amendments to our bylaws and compensation plans. Many of these revisions were mandated by newly adopted IRS rules about deferred compensation.

The word “amendment” is important here. We updated plans that already were in effect. Actually, our plan for dealing with a change of control has been in place since 1990. It’s been amended on occasion before and reported on over the years.

So, stand down. Relax. Gannett – along with the media industry – is facing some tough times but we are actively and aggressively moving forward with our strategic plan. We are seeing success and creating more of it everyday.

Come fall, we will have some interesting new approaches to innovation to tell you about. And there are lots of good things happening throughout the company, even though it may feel like a rough ride at the moment.
As you know, I am very proud of you and all you are doing to make this transformation happen. Gannett needs you, and appreciates you.

Thanks, and please keep in touch.