Gannett beats out Fortress-backed New Media for Journal Media Group

New Media Investment Group was unsuccessful in its bid to buy Journal Media Group, which is being sold to Gannett Co Inc, a source said.

Gannett, publisher of USA Today, agreed Wednesday to buy Journal Media for $280 million. The Milwaukee-based media company is the publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as other newspapers, including the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Naples Daily News.

Journal Media never officially went up for sale. Multiple parties, including Gannett and New Media Investment Group, approached the company earlier this year, which prompted Journal Media to review proposals, a source said.

Both Gannett and News Media made bids for Journal Media, the source said. Gannett won because it offered more, the source said.

For the past few years, Gannett and New Media Investment have been some of the more active buyers of newspapers. New Media, which is backed by Fortress Investment Group LLC, owns 87 daily newspapers and 243 weekly newspapers. In June New Media acquired the Columbus Dispatch from the Wolfe family for $47 million.

Gannett in June spun off its broadcast and digital business into Tenga. The publishing business, which includes USA Today, is still called Gannett Co Inc. In June, Gannett acquired 11 properties from Digital First Media, including the El Paso Times and The Alamogordo (New Mexico).

Since the spin off, Gannett is “flexing its muscles,” a source said.

Phyllis RigginsKerry NorthRyan MurphyPatrick Blusanovics and Garrett Isbell of Stephens Inc advised Gannett, while Methuselah Advisors provided financial advice to Journal Media.

Exeuctives for Journal Media, Stephens and Methuselah declined comment. New Media and Fortress couldn’t be reached for comment.