Guy Gannett Communications
|Industry||Newspapers and television stations|
|Fate||Broken up and sold in 1998|
Blethen Maine Newspapers
Sinclair Broadcast Group
|Headquarters||Portland, Maine United States|
|Key people||Guy P. Gannett, founder
Madeleine G. Corson, chairman
James B. Shaffer, president, CEO
|Products||Three daily newspapers in Maine and seven television stations in the eastern United States|
Guy Gannett Communications -- no relation to the larger Gannett communications chain -- was a family-owned business consisting of newspapers in Maine and a handful of television stations in the eastern United States. The company was founded by its namesake, Guy P. Gannett, in 1921, and managed by a family trust from 1954 to 1998, when it sold most of its properties to The Seattle Times Company and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
William Howard Gannett, of Augusta, Maine, first published Comfort magazine in 1888 -- an eight-page advertisement for a patent medicine -- but it was his son, Guy Patterson Gannett, who headed the push into daily journalism. After a stint helping with the magazine after his 1901 graduation from Yale University, the junior Gannett went into local politics. By 1920, he was a prominent citizen in Portland and two daily newspaper owners -- representing the Portland Herald and the Portland Daily Press -- had asked him to buy them out. Gannett invested in both companies.
In 1921, he completed his purchase of the two Portland papers, merging them into one Portland Press Herald, and also bought the Waterville Morning Sentinel in Waterville, Maine. In 1925 he added, for US$550,000, the Portland Evening Express and Daily Advertiser and Portland Sunday Telegram. Four years later, Guy Gannett Publishing Co. tacked on the Kennebec Journal in Augusta.
At first, the company expanded beyond newspapers with WGAN radio (1938) and television (1954) stations in Portland only (WGAN-TV was renamed WGME in the 1980s). In 1967, Guy Gannett began to buy television properties outside Maine.
On February 1, 1991, succumbing to industry-wide declines in revenues at afternoon newspapers, Guy Gannett closed the Evening Express and merged it with the Portland Press Herald. Daily circulation of the Express was given at 22,000 to 23,000.
In early 1998, the family trust decided to sell the company, leading to worries among some, such as Press Herald managing editor Curt Hazlett, that the Guy Gannett papers could lose the qualities he associated with family-owned journalism:
|“||"This place has been committed to quality, which means we're a little fat on the news side. That's a price this company has been willing to pay because we cover the community pretty well. The question is whether someone coming in from the outside will be willing to do that.||”|
Although they entertained offers from Journal Register Company and MediaNews Group, which had strong properties in nearby Massachusetts, Guy Gannett's managers decided to sell their newspapers to The Seattle Times Company, which had previously operated only within the state of Washington. Seattle Times, run by the fourth generation of the Blethen family, which had its roots in Maine, won out because of shared values.
"Of all the companies in the newspaper business, The Seattle Times is one most like our company in the sense of independence, of family ownership, and commitment to the community," said Guy Gannett spokesman Tim O'Meara. Frank Blethen, the Seattle Times publisher, agreed: "One of our key phrases is that we make money to print newspapers, not the other way around," he said.
Blethen said he had developed "a real emotional connection" to the Maine papers after making several "family pilgrimages" to the home of his ancestor, Col. Alden Blethen, who had been a schoolteacher and lawyer in Maine before purchasing The Seattle Press-Times in 1896. The Kennebec Journal, Maine Sunday Telegram, Morning Sentinel and Portland Press Herald, along with associated weeklies, were reorganized as Blethen Maine Newspapers, an independent division of The Seattle Times Company. The price of the deal was not disclosed publicly but was later estimated at $213 million, based on company documents.
- KGAN, Channel 2, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (CBS affiliate)
- WGGB, Channel 40, of Springfield, Massachusetts (ABC affiliate)
- WGME-TV, Channel 13, of Portland, Maine (CBS affiliate, flagship station)1
- WICS, Channel 20, of Springfield, Illinois and semi-satellite WICD, Channel 15, of Champaign, Illinois (NBC affiliates)
- WOKR, Channel 13, of Rochester, New York (ABC affiliate)
- WTWC-TV, Channel 40, of Tallahassee, Florida (NBC affiliate)1
1 WGME and WTWC were the only two television stations built and signed-on by Guy Gannett Communications.
The newspapers and related companies were sold to The Seattle Times Company and reorganized as a subsidiary company, Blethen Maine Newspapers. Six of the television stations were sold to Sinclair Broadcast Group; WOKR was sold to Ackerley Group.
- Wickenheiser, Matt. "A Rich History, and a Proud History". Portland Press Herald, June 8, 2004. Accessed October 29, 2007.
- "History of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram", accessed October 29, 2007.
- "Portland Dailies Plan to Merge". Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), page C5, September 26, 1990.
- Wilmsen, Steven. "Family Trust Puts Portland Press Herald on the Block". The Boston Globe, page F3, April 1, 1998.
- Wilmsen, Steven. "Seattle Times Co. Buys Maine Newspapers from Guy Gannett". The Boston Globe, page D1, September 2, 1998.
- Mapes, Lynda V. "Times Co. Completes Long-Stalled Sale of Maine Newspapers". The Seattle Times, June 16, 2009.
- "Highlights of the Week: Sept. 6-12". The Boston Globe, page K2, September 13, 1998.
- "Guy Gannett Communications Puts Media Business Up for Sale". Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), page E3, April 2, 1998.