Waiting for their own white knight?

August 9, 2007

images-12.jpegIt’s no secret that newspaper companies are having lots of problems right now. Declining ad sales, declining readership, declining stock prices and even a shrinking paper, as we saw at the NY Times earlier this week. So the idea that someone — anyone, really — might come along and rescue the industry, or one particular company as Rupert Murdoch is attempting to do with his deal to purchase Dow Jones (DJ) has to be on the mind of top executives.

How else to explain this transitional compensation plan that was filed by Gannett (GCI) in its 10-Q yesterday? The language is pretty standard stuff: “As is the case with most publicly held corporations, the possibility of a Change in Control (as defined below) of the Company exists, and that possibility, and the uncertainty and questions which it may raise among key executives concerning future employment, may result in the departure or distraction of key executives, to the detriment of the Company and its stockholders.”

The same Q also had several amendments to both Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow and CFO Gracia C. Martore’s employment agreement, even though both just inked new agreements in February. Of particular interest is the addition of “gross-up” language related to the vesting of restricted stock.

What does this all mean? It’s hard to say definitively. But the timing is clearly interesting, given that the stock is trading near a 10-year low.

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