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McLean, Virginia-based media conglomerate Gannett Co., the nation's largest owner of newspapers, seeing the writing on the wall, is acquiring Dallas-based Belo Corp.,which will make Gannett the fourth-largest owner of network television outlets, according to reports by Reuters and Gannett flagship newspaper, USA Today.
The sale is slated for completion by the end of the year, pending antitrust approval, FCC blessings and the ok of two-thirds of Belo's shareholders, the latter of which is a fait accompli, as Belo's directors and executive officers, holders of 42 percent of outstanding shares, already have given the deal their thumbs up.
Gannett, which counts USA Today, the Detroit Free Press and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal among its stable of 82 newspapers, will nearly double its television holdings to 43 stations with the addition of Belo's 20 stations, nine of which are in the country's largest markets. Gannett expects to reach almost one-third of U.S. households with the acquisition.
As the newspaper industry continues to take on water with declining circulation and shrinking ad revenues, Gannett, which draws most of its revenue from print, is seeking a makeover. Once finalized, the transaction will enable Gannett to derive almost two-thirds of its pre-tax, pre-interest earnings from its combined digital and broadcast segments.
Belo Corp. previously saw the light in 2008 when it severed its broadcasting holdings, which range from KVUE-TV in Austin and KGW-TV in Portland, Ore., to KMOV-TV in St. Louis, from its newspaper assets, which were spun off into the publicly traded A.H. Belo Corp.
Directors of both companies unanimously approved the $2.2 billion deal, which involves Gannett forking over $1.5 billion in cash and assuming $715 million in debt from Belo.