Gannett Co. Inc. announced plans to split off its print division before activist investor Carl Icahn could start pushing the media company in that direction, according to a recent regulatory filing.
Companies controlled by Icahn have accumulated a collective 6.63 percent stake in Gannett. The investor said in the Thursday filing that he started building the stake because he believed the shares were undervalued and that value could be created by splitting Gannett into separate print and broadcast companies.
On Aug. 5, the company said it would do just that. Gannett's publishing arm will retain the Gannett name and include USA Today, 81 local U.S. daily publications and Newsquest, a regional community news provider in the U.K.
The broadcasting and digital arm will operate the company's 46 television stations and websites such as CareerBuilder and Cars.com.
Gannett's spinoff follows similar maneuvers by major operators such as Time Warner Inc. and News Corp, as print publications struggle with declining ad revenue.
Icahn said in his filing that he hadn't talked to the company before its announcement of the split, but now plans to talk with Gannett management and directors about "the planned separation, corporate governance, capitalization and capital allocation." The investor owns more than 14.9 million shares in the company, including underlying call options.
The multi-billionaire is famous for buying stock in underperforming companies, pressuring them to reform and often selling out for a profit. His recent targets have included Apple Inc., eBay and Dell Inc.
Shares of the McLean, Virginia, company rose 4 cents to $34.09 in morning trading on Friday. The stock had climbed 15 percent so far this year, as of Thursday's close. That tops the nearly 6 percent advance of the Standard & Poor's 500 index over the same span.