The Austin American-Statesman, the dominant daily newspaper in Central Texas, may have found a buyer, according to a published report. Media blog NiemanLab is reporting Pittsford, New York-based GateHouse Media LLC appears to be the winning bidder for the Statesman. Final details are supposed to be worked out this week, according to the blog.
NiemanLab speculated GateHouse will pay close to $50 million for the Statesman. However, it’s unclear whether that deal would cover only the Austin newspaper or would also include seven smaller Statesman-affiliated newspapers in Central Texas that were put on the market last year.
Executives at the Statesman declined to comment when reached by news website Patch.com. Instead, Statesman Editor Debbie Hiott told Patch.com: “Susie Gray Biehle, our publisher, would be the best source for any statement, although I doubt Cox would have anything to say on that completely unsourced story from Ken Doctor.” (Doctor wrote the NiemanLab piece.)
Biehle also told Patch.com she had no comment.
GateHouse Media, which owns more than 130 daily newspapers along with hundreds of websites and community newspapers, doesn’t have any media outlets in Central Texas. However, its Center for News & Design is located in Austin. The center, which employs more than 240 people, handles design and editing functions for more than 250 daily and weekly newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News (which it does not own).
Hearst Newspapers LLC has long been considered the strongest contender to purchase the Statesman and its assets. Hearst publishes 24 daily newspapers in the U.S., including the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, as well as 64 weekly newspapers (including a cluster of publications in the Houston area).
On October 31, Atlanta-based Cox Media Group said it was seeking a buyer or buyers for its newspapers in the Austin area, as well as its two daily newspapers in Palm Beach County, Florida. Cox originally put the paper up for sale in August 2008 but pulled it off the market in August 2009.
The sale of the Austin paper wouldn’t include the Statesman’s headquarters, which sits on South Congress Avenue and adjoins Lady Bird Lake. In December 2015, Cox sold the Statesman’s coveted lakefront property to a Cox family entity. Austin-based Endeavor Real Estate Group has been tapped to create a redevelopment plan for the nearly 19-acre site.
Based on daily circulation, a key measure of readership, the Statesman is the fifth largest newspaper in Texas, behind the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It currently employs more than 200 people.