COLUMBIA — The Tribune Publishing Co., including the Columbia Daily Tribune, has been purchased by newspaper chain GateHouse Media, the newspaper announced on its website Friday morning.
The sale, which includes the Tribune, the commercial printing division and Tribune Targeted, will be finalized on or about Oct. 1. The terms of the purchase have not been disclosed.
Staffers said the announcement was made to all Tribune employees at 10 a.m., with emails sent to those not present.
The Columbia Tribune was founded in 1901 and purchased by the Waters family in 1905. The newspaper publishes in the afternoon Monday through Friday and on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Andy Waters, president of Tribune Publishing Co., and Vicki Russell, publisher, will leave the company when the sale closes, the Tribune reported. All other current employees are expected to keep their jobs during the transition, according to the email sent to employees.
An interim publisher will be appointed at the closing.
Hank Waters will continue to write daily editorials as he has done for the last 50 years, the Tribune reported.
Russell and Andy Waters told a Tribune reporter that independent ownership was no longer possible with the costs of operation.
"After months of discussion and analysis, we concluded the Tribune will be stronger as part of a larger media organization," Andy Waters, Vicki Russell and Hank Waters wrote in an email to employees.
Jason Taylor, president of GateHouse Media's Western Publishing Operations, said the sale "makes a lot of sense for us because we own a lot of other newspapers in the area."
"It's also good for them because they can leverage the power of a national media company," Taylor said about the Columbia Daily Tribune.
According to its website, the Tribune Publishing Co. employs more than 200 people. It delivers in Boone County and five contiguous counties.
GateHouse Media is a publicly traded company and the largest publisher of daily newspapers across the U.S. with 125 daily newspapers. In total, the company publishes 620 community and business publications. Its properties in Missouri include the Boonville Daily News, Moberly Monitor Index, The Mexico Ledger and The Hannibal Courier-Post.
Based in Pittsford, New York, the company also owns the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and Gainesville Sun in Florida, the Ames Tribune in Iowa, and the Providence Journal in Rhode Island.
Columbia will serve as the hub for the Missouri GateHouse properties, according to the Tribune.
In 2011, Andy Waters and his sister, Elizabeth Reifert, purchased full ownership of the Tribune. According to the Tribune's article, the newspaper has received previous purchase offers but always turned them down.
"I hate to see the Waters family leave journalism," said Bill Miller Sr., publisher of the family-owned Washington Missourian. "It came to me as a complete surprise."
GateHouse Media has embarked on an aggressive acquisition strategy since emerging from bankruptcy in 2014. GateHouse is a subsidiary of New Media Investment Group Inc. New Media stock was trading at $16.05 per share, up $0.23 Friday morning.
In 2015, GateHouse closed the sale of Halifax Media Group's newspapers, including the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Columbus Dispatch.
For the quarter ended June 30, the Tribune reported 14,312 subscribers Monday through Saturday, including 13,638 print, and 16,288 Sunday subscribers, including 15,615 print, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
A year earlier, the Tribune reported 14,812 subscribers Monday through Saturday, including 14,109 print subscribers, and 17,319 Sunday, including 16,616 print subscribers.
New Media is managed by FIG LLC, an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC.
Earlier this year, Fortess Investment Group announced a goal of $1 billion in media acquisitions. As of July 28, New Media had announced a total of $95 million in acquisitions.
Missourian reporter Max Fillion contributed to this story.