Gannett close to acquiring full ownership of Cars.com: source

Mon Aug 4, 2014 7:04pm EDT

The logos of Gannett Co and its flagship newspaper, USA Today, are seen outside their corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The logos of Gannett Co and its flagship newspaper, USA Today, are seen outside their corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia, July 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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(Reuters) - Gannett Co Inc, one of the newspaper owners of Cars.com, is near an agreement to buy out the part of the auto-sales website that it does not already own for $1.8 billion, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

This would be the latest step for Gannett to diversify its business away from newspapers. Gannett, the largest U.S. newspaper chain and publisher of USA Today, has been snapping up broadcast TV stations to bolster its portfolio against declining advertising revenue and readership at its newspapers. It spent $1.5 billion on buying the broadcaster Belo last year.

Gannett is one of the five newspaper publishers that back Classified Ventures, the entity that owns Cars.com. Cars.com helps people buy and sell cars on the Internet.

Reuters reported in May that Gannett was exploring a bid for the entire company.

Bloomberg News first reported on Monday that Gannett had agreed to a deal.

While Gannett will be in control of the company, the agreement would allow previous owners of Cars.com to sell ads and generate revenue for five years, according to Bloomberg.

A spokesman for Gannett declined to comment. A representative for Cars.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gannett, which publishes 82 newspapers in the United States, also owns a stake in digital recruitment site CareerBuilder.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang)

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