BREAKING: Cox selling Austin American-Statesman

Cox Media Group announced plans Tuesday to put up the Austin American-Statesman for sale. 

The Statesman — which was named Texas Newspaper of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors three of the past four years — will be put on the market with its seven community newspapers and multiple websites. The company is also selling the Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News

Cox Media Group President Kim Guthrie said in a statement that the decision is part of a pivot toward markets where Cox has multiple media assets, such as Atlanta and Dayton, Ohio. 

“After careful consideration, we have made the difficult but strategic decision to put our newspapers in Palm Beach and Austin up for sale,” Guthrie said. “We have made the decision that we will be better equipped to operate our newspapers in Atlanta and Ohio, where we have the integrated opportunity with our TV and radio operations.” 

Guthrie and other company executives made the announcement in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday morning, with plans to arrive in Austin Tuesday afternoon to speak with the roughly 200 employees who work there. 

“When Kim called last week to share this decision with me, she made it clear that this is not a reflection of the value the Statesman delivers to our readers, to our advertisers and to CMG,” Publisher Susie Gray Biehle told Statesman employees in a memo. “But as the media business continues to change, it is crucial that CMG adapt its business strategy to navigate these disruptive times in ways that benefit the entire media portfolio.” 

It’s not the first time Cox Enterprises, the privately held parent company of Cox Media Group, has put the Statesman up for sale. The company also did so in August 2008, then took the newspaper off the market in August 2009, saying it would remain part of the converged newspaper, TV, radio media company Cox was creating. 

In December 2015 the company sold the Statesman’s lakefront property to a family entity associated with Cox Enterprises. The entity has since hired Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group to create a redevelopment plan for the 18.9-acre site. 

Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla., says the Statesman would be a desirable acquisition for a media company or a well-heeled investor. 

“I can see a number of prospective buyers. Gannett and New Media Investment (GateHouse Media) are sure to take a look,” Edmonds said via email. “The American-Statesman would be a great fit for Hearst, which already owns the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. And there is always the chance that a wealthy local individual might find ownership attractive — as happened with the Boston Globe or Minneapolis Star Tribune. 

“But even in an attractive market like Austin, going on the block introduces uncertainty at a difficult time of transition in the industry. There is the chance that a new owner would make substantial reductions in news staff and that the community will be less well-served.” 

Gannett owns USA Today and more than 100 other daily newspapers around the country. In Texas, it operates the daily newspapers in Abilene, Corpus Christi, San Angelo and Wichita Falls. 

GateHouse Media, which owns hundreds of newspapers nationwide, doesn’t have any media outlets in Austin, but its Center for News & Design is in Austin and currently does some work for Cox newspapers.

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