Sunday, July 23, 2006

Owner of Joplin Daily, Carthage Press, Neosho paper to go public

GateHouse Media, owner of the Joplin Daily, Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, Big Nickel, and more than 300 other publications, is going public according to documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
An initial public offering of $200 million worth of shares of common stock is planned, according to the filing. GateHouse, formerly Liberty Group Publishing, owns 75 daily newspapers with paid circulation of 405,000, 231 weekly newspapers with 620,000 in paid circulation and 430,000 in free circulation, and 117 shoppers with a circulation of 1.5 million, as well as 230 "locally-flavored websites." The company has products in 285 markets in 17 states, the filing said.
The filing includes a listing of the company's strengths, which include maintaining dominance in local communities. "We seek to maintain our position as a leading provider of local content in the markets we serve and to leverage this position to strengthen our relationships with both readers and advertisers, thereby increasing penetration rates and market share. A critical aspect of this approach is to continue to provide local content that is not readily obtainable elsewhere in order to position our products as a 'must read' within their markets."
The company considers its "content driven internet strategy" to be one of its strengths, according to the filing. "We are well positioned to increase our online penetration and generate additional online revenues due to both our ability to deliver unique local content and our relationships with readers and advertisers. We believe our local brands and unique local content make our sites 'must visit' destinations for our local audience. This presents an opportunity to increase our audience penetration rates and advertising market share in each of the communities we serve."
The filing also includes a number of risk factors, such as the possibility of declining circulation, competition, the company's high level of debt, and the possibility of key company officials, including CEO Michael Reed and co-president and co-chief operating officer Randy Cope, formerly publisher of the Neosho Daily News, leaving. The company is dependent on their leadership, according to the filing.
GateHouse officials' salaries
GateHouse CEO Michael Reed, formerly CEO of Community Newspaper Holdings, owner of the Joplin Globe, makes a $500,000 a year base salary, according to the filing. Cope and his co-president and chief operating officer Scott Champion each receive $200,000 a year. All three are eligible for $200,000 annual bonuses based on production. The executives also receive shares of common stock, "vacation, sick time, participation in the company retirement plan (if any) and medical, dental and insurance programs, all in accordance with the terms of such plans and programs in effect from time to time."
Former Liberty CEO Ken Serota made a tidy profit off his departure from the company, receiving a $1 million payout, a $500,000 million bonus, and his debt on a $597,610 loan was forgiven. He also will receive $500,000 to act as a consultant for one year.

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