The Austin American-Statesman is being sold to New York-based publishing company GateHouse Media, executives said last week, ending more than 41 years of ownership by Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises.
The purchase price is $47.5 million. The sale is expected to close April 2.
GateHouse Media, based in upstate New York, is the nation’s largest owner of daily newspapers across the country, with more than 10,000 employees.
Along with the Statesman, the sale includes the newspaper’s Spanish-language weekly newspaper ¡Ahora Sí!, and the Austin Community Newspapers group, which includes the Bastrop Advertiser, Lake Travis View, Pflugerville Pflag, Round Rock Leader, Smithville Times and the Westlake Picayune. Related digital offerings such as Austin360, 512tech and Hookem.com also are part of the sale.
GateHouse publishes 130 daily newspapers, hundreds of community publications and more than 540 local market websites that reach more than 21 million people each week, according to the company. Based in upstate New York, the company is part of publicly traded New Media Investment Group.
“New Media is very excited to add the Austin American-Statesman and its associated publications to our portfolio of local media assets,” Michael E. Reed, New Media president and CEO, said in a written statement. “In addition to being known for its strong and trusted journalism and having high digital engagement, the city of Austin is a very attractive market for our growing business offerings. … We look forward to working with Austin employees to further build upon their partnerships and carry on the strong local journalism they do in Austin.”
Cox Enterprises put the American-Statesman on the market Oct. 31, saying it expected to close a sale in six to 12 months. The sale does not include the nearly 19 acres on Lady Bird Lake that is home to the Statesman’s offices. The land at 305 S. Congress Ave. is now owned by members of the Cox family and is the subject of ongoing redevelopment plans.
s newspapers across the country have closed or downsized in the new digital age, GateHouse has continued to make acquisitions. Most recently, the company purchased the Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore., officially assuming ownership March 1. It bought a number of newspapers last year, including its $120 million purchase of Morris Publishing Group, owner of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas and newspapers in Florida, Georgia and elsewhere.
New Media, GateHouse’s parent company, reported 2017 revenue of $1.34 billion, up 6.9 percent from 2016. The company reported a net loss for the year of $915,000.
Jason Taylor, president of the western U.S. publishing operations for GateHouse, said that, upon the Statesman sale closing, Austin would become one of the largest media companies owned by GateHouse.
Taylor said GateHouse has no specific plans for the American-Statesman yet. He said GateHouse executives will be talking to the local leadership team to discuss how the Statesman and GateHouse can benefit each other.
“Austin is such a dynamic market,” Taylor said. “Most media companies would covet it. The leadership role it takes in the state is impressive and impactful, and we want to be part of that.”
GateHouse has been criticized for cutting staff at the papers it acquires, often to a point that media analysts have said it can be a detriment to the communities served by its newspapers.
Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism center in St. Petersburg, Fla., said GateHouse “has a deserved reputation for running things with tight expense control.”
“Some expense reductions and lost jobs in services they can handle in house are a sure thing. But the newsroom may not get the worst of it,” Edmonds said.
Taylor said GateHouse plans to continue the Statesman on its path of doing important, community-oriented journalism.
“GateHouse is committed to the rich legacy of quality journalism that the Statesman has contributed to both Austin and the state of Texas,” Taylor said. “I can promise you now our mission is to sustain local journalism.”
State’s first Amazon Books store opens at Domain Northside: Turns out even Amazon.com realizes the value of brick and mortar.
The online retailer opened one of its Amazon Books stores at Domain Northside in North Austin last week – the first in Texas and the 14th nationwide.
The store, at 11700 Rock Rose Ave., stocks about 3,800 different titles at any given time – a mix of bestsellers, new releases and an assortment of other books rated four stars or higher by Amazon.com customers.
In addition to books, the store also sells an assortment of Amazon gadgets such as the Alexa personal assistant and Kindle e-readers.
“We wanted to build a space that integrates the best of both worlds – online and offline,” said Mariana Garavaglia, head of stores and retail operations for Amazon Books.
Garavaglia said putting a location in Austin was an easy decision. Other stores are located in Amazon’s Seattle home base, as well as in Los Angeles, New York and Portland, Ore.
“Austin is a vibrant community full of book lovers,” she said. “We’re excited to introduce this store. We hope everyone who comes in can find a great new book.”
Amazon Prime subscribers pay the same discounted rate charged on Amazon.com when shopping in Amazon Books stores, while customers without Prime pay list price for their purchases.
“We’re always trying to innovate and invent for our customers,” Garavaglia said. “It a really fun experience we’ve created – a store without walls.”