Gannett refused takeover fearing rival’s financial backing

Newspaper giant Gannett, which rejected a $1.4 billion takeover offer from its cost-cutting rival MNG, said it believes MNG lacked adequate funding for the deal.

Gannett said its suitor’s executives failed to answer “basic questions” about the bid at a meeting last week.

Gannett, which owns more than 100 papers including USA Today, said on Monday that MNG, better known as Digital First Media, had no answers when asked about the financing behind its hostile, $12-a-share bid.

At the meeting last Thursday, MNG — whose record of slashing staff at papers including the Denver Post and the Boston Herald has sparked disdain among journalists nationwide — offered no evidence that it even reached out to financing sources, Gannett said.

“Instead, MNG offered vague and generic statements that further confirmed the board’s decision to reject MNG’s proposal,” Gannett Chairman J. Jeffry Louis said in a statement Monday.

When asked about financing specifics, MNG offered only: “We could get financing,” one source briefed on the meeting told The Post.

Likewise, Gannett griped that all six of MNG’s nominees to Gannett’s board were tied to MNG or its hedge fund backer, Alden Global. The slate includes MNG Chairman Joseph Fuchs and former MNG CEO Steven Rossi.

One nominee, Fuchs, at 78 years old, exceeds the Gannett board’s mandatory retirement age of 75, the company noted.

But to hear MNG tell it, Gannett was the one not willing to engage in serious talks last week.

“Gannett grossly mischaracterized the meeting we had last week, as well as MNG’s ability to close this transaction,” MNG shot back in a statement Monday afternoon, claiming it plans to have financing committed within weeks.

Two sources close to MNG briefed on the powwow said it was “a show.” Gannett reps didn’t say anything, nor did they ask questions, the sources told The Post.

“They were stone-faced,” one source said.

“Gannett is simply trying to distract from the fact that they have no credible path to achieve a $12 valuation on their own,” MNG said.

MNG sent shockwaves through the media industry last month when it launched its bid for Gannett.

Gannett shares slid 2 percent Monday, closing at $10.93.

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