CEO Michael Reed announced the elimination of the quarterly dividend.
Foregoing dividends will allow us to use free cash flow to reduce leverage and increase our liquidity. We believe this is a prudent strategy given the challenging and uncertain times we are in today.
Reed also addressed the company's recent stock price woes:
First, there is no doubt that the broad media industry is facing secular change. The Internet has altered the playing field. However, the Internet is far more of an opportunity than a threat for us at GateHouse. First, as I have noted many times before, our content is unique to our markets and proprietary to our company. It attracts the audience that our advertisers seek. The current economic climate is affecting all advertising based businesses regardless of media. GateHouse's assets are powerful franchises in their communities because of the quality and type of content, and the reach we provide advertisers in both print and online in each of our respective markets.
This downturn is unlike any other that I have experienced over the last 20 years in the media business. Our advertising customers are not spending their dollars on other media -- they are simply advertising less right now. The downturn in real estate, automotive, and help wanted advertising are tied far more to the cycle than any massive secular shift.
It is critical that we not panic and lose confidence in our assets; rather, we need to weather the economic storm and make sure we have dominant, local franchises in our markets positioned to grow when the cycle does turn.
Reed also gave an assessment of the near future:
As we look ahead over the next 12 to 24 months, our focus will be on strengthening our balance sheet and managing our operation. Unlike the economy or capital markets, these are things that are under our control.
From an operations standpoint we will continue to invest in our online businesses, which is our fastest growing segment. We will also continue to aggressively pursue cost reductions on our controllable expenses and look for ways to manage inflationary pressures and to become more efficient.
We would expect to continue to post industry-leading results.