Gannett retains all board seats in proxy fight against MNG Enterprises

(Reuters) - USA Today owner Gannett Co Inc said on Thursday all its eight director nominees were elected to its board, based on a preliminary vote count, beating candidates put up by its shareholder MNG Enterprises, better known as Digital First Media.

The newspaper chain had launched a proxy fight against Gannett in February by nominating six directors, days after Gannett rejected MNG’s $1.36 billion buyout offer.

MNG, which is controlled by secretive hedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC, later cut its slate to three nominees.

As of April, MNG held a 7.4% stake in Gannett, as per Refinitiv data.

In the proxy battle, Gannett’s slate of eight director nominees were backed by advisory firms Glass Lewis & Co and Egan-Jones Proxy Services, while a sole nominee of MNG gained the support of Institutional Shareholder Services.

MNG is one of the largest newspaper holding companies in the United States and owns more than 200 publications. Buying Gannett would have brought about 100 more newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press, into its fold.

MNG Enterprises said it was a win for an “entrenched Gannett board that has been unwilling to address the current realities of the newspaper business”.

“Gannett’s newspapers are critical local resources, and we hope that Gannett’s incumbent board and management shift course to embrace a modern approach to local news that will save newspapers and serve communities. That would be the best outcome,” MNG added.

MNG said if Gannett’s board does not shift course from overpaying for “non-core, aspirational and dilutive digital deals”, the (Gannett) stock will drop further.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber