Gannett Co. may find itself giving a lot more at the office, thanks to prodding from the Gannett Foundation, the charitable organization headed by Allen H. Neuharth, Gannett Co.'s former chairman and its current nemesis.
The Arlington-based foundation has decided to drastically cut its financial support of social-service organizations and other charitable agencies in communities served by Gannett Co.'s newspapers and television stations. Starting next year, the foundation will give about $5 million to these organizations. About $11 million has been earmarked by the foundation for these charities this year.
The foundation, which is legally independent of the newspaper company but is its largest stockholder, also said the $5 million are "challenge grants" -- that is, it will only ante up as long as Gannett Co. puts up $5 million of its own money. A Gannett Co. spokeswoman said the company is considering setting aside the money, but the media firm doesn't consider the foundation's new policy binding. "They worked this out unilaterally," spokeswoman Sheila Gibbons said.
Neuharth has been peeved at his former colleagues at Gannett for their unwillingness to meet his price on a deal in which Gannett Co. would buy the foundation'smajor asset -- 15.9 million shares of Gannett Co. stock. The foundation has frozen some grants to the company's subsidiaries while the negotiations drag on. The cut in funding next year has nothing to do with the dispute, however, Neuharth said. Instead, the foundation wants to beef up its commitment to programs that "enhance First Amendment freedoms," he said in announcing the change.