AUGUSTA, Ga – As part of a strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle publications, property development and new business, Morris Communications Co. announced today that it has signed an agreement to sell the assets of Morris Publishing Group, including the Log Cabin Democrat, to GateHouse Media.
The sale includes 10 other daily newspapers, numerous non-daily publications and associated websites and digital assets. The transaction is expected to close on October 2, 2017. Terms were not disclosed.
"The Log Cabin Democrat will retain its mission to be Faulkner County’s news, advertising and information source since 1879," said Cynthia Crabb, Group Controller of the Democrat. "We are excited about the new available resources and opportunities with GateHouse Media and anticipate a new synergy to emerge with the existing GateHouse properties across the state. We will continue to evolve as a multi-platform media company that includes print and digital solutions for both our readers and advertisers."
"Since my father took a job as bookkeeper at The Chronicle in 1929, our family has been dedicated to journalism, and to the readers and advertisers in the communities we serve," said William S. "Billy" Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications. "Although this has been a difficult decision for me, we have found a wonderful buyer for the newspapers in GateHouse, as they are strongly committed to providing good community coverage for readers and effective solutions for advertisers."
Under terms of the sale, Crabb will remain as Group Controller of the Democrat. Billy Morris will continue as publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and will oversee editorial-page policy for the three Morris newspapers in Georgia.
GateHouse Media is a division of New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded company (NEWM) on the New York Stock Exchange. It is one of the largest newspaper companies in the country, owning more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 non-daily publications across the United States.
"GateHouse is very excited to welcome the Morris publications and their employees into our company," said Michael E. Reed, New Media president and CEO. "For more than 80 years, the Morris family has built and operated an incredible collection of local media assets. We are honored that the family has chosen us to uphold the rich tradition of journalism and innovation they have established. This transaction will expand our footprint into new states and add some very attractive markets to our local media portfolio. We see strong synergies between our two companies and look forward to the value creation opportunity that will exist as we combine the portfolios."
"Every newspaper company in America is battling trends and redirected advertising dollars, so it is necessary for newspapers to be part of a large newspaper group to build and maintain the necessary resources to compete," said Morris. We are deeply grateful for the many friendships and business relationships we have enjoyed for these many years and look forward to the impact the next generation will make."
William S. (Will) Morris IV, president and CEO of Morris Communications, said, "Although the decision to leave the newspaper business was a tough one for our family, we are enthusiastic about our plans to diversify our business holdings with print and digital communications and real estate development. We have a solid team in place to take the business in a prosperous new direction."
Daily papers included in the sale, in addition to the Log Cabin Democrat, are The Augusta Chronicle, the Savannah Morning News and the Athens Banner-Herald (Georgia), The Florida Times-Union and The St. Augustine Record in Florida, the Amarillo Globe-News and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in Texas, The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, and the Juneau Empire and Kenai Peninsula Clarion in Alaska.
The Morris family will retain ownership of Buzz on Biz and Augusta magazine, Georgia Trend magazine, and several city and specialty magazines in the other communities. These will be operated by Morris Media Network, a global magazine company with titles in travel, enthusiast and lifestyle categories. A commercial printing operation in Savannah will also be retained.
Derek May, currently president of Morris Publishing Group, will take a new leadership role as chief operating officer of Morris Communications.
"I’ve considered it a blessing to be around such talented individuals who work for our company," said May. "These are great people, passionate about what they do, and committed to their communities."
"We are enthusiastic about our current and future business ventures," Will Morris said. "With this sale, we will pursue a range of new possibilities. We intend to keep making a difference in the world, as we have for more than 80 years."
History of the Log Cabin Democrat
The Log Cabin Democrat is a daily newspaper in Conway, Arkansas, serving Conway and Faulkner County and some surrounding areas. Founded in July 1879 as The Log Cabin, the newspaper is currently operated by Morris Publishing Group, which assumed full ownership in the mid-1990s.
The founding publisher was Able F. Livingston, and ownership changed a handful of times early in the newspaper’s existence, eventually passing to the family of J.W. Robins in 1894. The Robins family continued to be involved with the newspaper directly for five generations. Along the way, J.W. Underhill, a one-time owner of The Log Cabin, purchased assets of a smaller Conway newspaper, The Democrat, which operated from 1881 to 1885 and had been revived in 1899. Underhill married into the Robins family, and the two papers merged as The Log Cabin Democrat in late 1900.
The newspaper’s main office has been on downtown Conway’s Front Street since 1980, after operating from offices on Oak Street for 80 years. In addition to its primary print edition, the newspaper publishes Women’s Inc. magazine and other specialty publications. Since its online debut in 1997, TheCabin.net has been augmented with multiple specialty websites through Morris DigitalWorks, covering niches such as dining, wedding planning, and local entertainment.