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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Canton Newspaper's Corporate Parent: Stock Is A Slider, Hits All-Time Low Today

CANTON, Ohio (TDB) -- The newspaper stocks are still being battered on Wall Street. And one of the worst beatings has been taken by Gatehouse Media Inc., which today fell to an all-time low of $2.02 per share. On the slider index, that price now equals 37% of the cost of a sackful of 10 White Castle hamburgers. To put it another way, you could purchase 2.7 shares of Fairport, N.Y.-based Gatehouse (GHS:NYSE) for the same amount of money you would plunk down for a sackful of sliders. Gatehouse owns the 64,000-circulation Canton Repository, a NE Ohio newspaper that it bought in April 2007 after a spin off from the privately-held Copley chain in San Diego. Other Ohio holdings include the Massillon Independent, the Dover New Philadelphia times Reporter and the Suburbanite in Akron's suburbs. The new low for Gatehouse came quickly -- it had just broken through that same barrier Monday. But like a true slider, it continued on the course of its downward run.

A year ago, Gatehouse stock was worth $19.10 per share, or 3.5 sacks of sliders. (They come 10 to a sack at $5.45). The Repository Web site is available here, and it seems to be somewhat slim on content today. Data about the newspaper's parent corporation is here. In Illinois, The CapitolFaxBlog is reporting the company seems to have the "smell of death," and notes its Midwest papers could be getting shaky. Gatehouse market cap Wednesday was down to $121.5 million, which is less than the $380 million it paid for nine Midwest newspapers -- including those in Ohio -- about 16 months ago.

At the time of the purchase, Canton Publisher David Greenfield said Gatehouse knew how to grow the business, words that seem to sound hollow today:

"Gatehouse is an aggressive, young newspaper company, and I think they are going to be good owners. They understand the newspaper business, and what it takes to grow in today's complex and competitive media environment."

Michael E. Reed, Gatehouse's CEO, said:

"These newspapers are dominant local news providers in the markets they serve, with a rich tradition of journalistic excellence and local advertising reach, and therefore fit perfectly into the business strategy of Gatehouse Media. We are excited about the opportunity to continue to actively deploy capital in the local media sector."

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