GateHouse's bid for Gannett could be in trouble

A deal to merge the nation's two largest newspaper chains appears to be in jeopardy. Full credit: Andrew Harrer/

A deal to merge the nation's two largest newspaper chains appears to be in jeopardy.

MNG Enterprises, the owner of Digital First Media, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday that it has taken a more than 9% stake in New Media Investment Group, the parent company of GateHouse Media.

New Media announced on Monday that it plans to acquire USA Today owner Gannett. But MNG has previously made offers for Gannett that Gannett has turned down. So it looks like MNG's purchase of a New Media stake might be a way for MNG to try and kill the Gannett deal. MNG was not immediately available for comment about when it bought its 5.7 million shares in New Media.

New Media operates in more than 600 markets in 39 states, while Digital First Media owns dozens of local papers and is notorious for making deep newsroom cuts. Last year, employees at the Denver Post gained national support when they rose up against what their editorial board termed the "vultures" of the paper's hedge fund owner, Alden Global Capital.

MNG said in the SEC filing that it is "evaluating the terms" of the New Media-Gannett merger and believes the consummation of the deal may "not be in the best interest" of New Media's shareholders.

MNG added that it may vote against the deal or suggest other strategic alternatives to it. This could be seen as a play by MNG to scoop up Gannett for itself after its failed bid earlier this year.

The gambit may work, but investors for the moment are not happy. New Media's shares plunged 9% Friday while Gannett's tumbled about 5%. Both stocks have plummeted since the merger was announced earlier this week.

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