The McClatchy Company is a publicly traded American publishing company based in Sacramento, California. It operates 29 daily newspapers in 14 states and has an average weekday circulation of 1.6 million and Sunday circulation of 2.4 million. In 2006, it purchased Knight Ridder, which at the time was the second-largest newspaper company in the United States (Gannett was and remains the largest). In addition to its daily newspapers, McClatchy also operates several websites and community papers, as well as a news agency, McClatchyDC, focused on political news from the U.S. capital.
The company originated with The Daily Bee, first published in Sacramento, California on February 3, 1857 by Native American writer Rollin Ridge. James McClatchy joined Ridge as a partner and took over as editor. Known as a supporter of the people's interests against corporations and corrupt politicians, McClatchy made The Bee a bastion of progressive reformism. Upon McClatchy's death in 1883, the paper's leadership passed to James' son, Charles Kenny McClatchy, who with his brother Valentine Stuart, bought out the Ridge family's interests and brought the paper into the 20th century with the formation of McClatchy Newpapers through the founding of the Fresno Bee, and acquisition of the Modesto Bee. C.K. McClatchy's legacy to the region has been memorialized in the C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento, which opened in 1937, about a year after his death.
For most of its history, the company was focused on the newspaper business in California's Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley. In 1978, the 4th generation Carlos K. McClatchy took over the company and guided the family-owned media company on a course that led toward the modern publicly owned The McClatchy Company through further acquisitions of out-of-state newspapers, Anchorage Daily News in Anchorage, Alaska, and the Tri-City Herald in Kennewick, Washington.
McClatchy also acquired then-ABC-affiliate KOVR from Metromedia in 1963. The company's own Modesto Bee reported the sale of the station. It was sold to The Outlet Company in 1978 and today exists as a CBS owned-and-operated station.
In 1990, The McClatchy acquired three dailies in South Carolina: The Herald in Rock Hill, The Island Packet in Hilton Head, and The Beaufort Gazette of Beaufort. In 1995, it acquired The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, and in 1998, it bought the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
In January 2004, McClatchy bought the Merced Sun-Star of Merced, and five affiliated non-dailies in California's San Joaquin Valley.
The company's biggest acquisition occurred on June 27, 2006 when McClatchy purchased Knight Ridder. Because McClatchy was so much smaller than Knight Ridder at the time, one observer equated the deal as "a dolphin swallowing a small whale." The purchase price of $40 and 0.5118 shares of McClatchy Class A stock per share was valued in total at about $4 billion in cash and stock. The company also assumed $2 billion in debt. This purchase added 20 newspapers to the company stable and the immediate sale (over the next five weeks) of 12 publications including the St. Paul Pioneer Press, San Jose Mercury News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Those sales were completed on Aug. 2, 2006
In July 2008, McClatchy sold the company's digital advertising network, "Real Cities" to a Chicago-based marketing firm named Centro. The "Real Cities" network was liquidated by Centro the following month.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, acquired in 1998 and sold in 2007 to private-equity firm Avista Capital Partners for $555 million, had the highest circulation of all McClatchy newspapers.
The company also owns a portfolio of digital assets, including 15.0% of CareerBuilder, LLC, which operates CareerBuilder.com; 25.6% of Classified Ventures, LLC, a company that offers classified websites, such as the auto website Cars.com; and 33.3% of HomeFinder, LLC, which operates the online real estate website HomeFinder.com. McClatchy also owns 49.5% of the voting stock and 70.6% of the nonvoting stock of The Seattle Times Company.
In January 2017, former Yahoo! and Earthlink executive Craig Forman was appointed as its new president and chief executive officer (CEO). Forman, who is 55 years old, and a private investor and current McClatchy board member succeeds Patrick Talamantes, who was CEO for four years.
The descendants of C.K. McClatchy still own a controlling interest in the McClatchy Company and are represented by the 6th generation Kevin McClatchy as chairman of the Board of Directors.
As of 2015, McClatchy had approximately 5,600 full and part-time employees (equating to approximately 5,100 full-time equivalent employees). The company has two classes of stock, allowing the founding McClatchy family to retain control. In the Knight Ridder purchase, for example, McClatchy shareholders did not need to act in approving the purchase because the family had already voted their shares in favor.
Editor and Publisher reported in October 2006 that McClatchy revenue ending August 2006 was down over one percent from August 2005. Between the announced purchase of Knight Ridder in March 2006 and late 2009, the stock value of McClatchy (MNI) declined significantly. On December 18, 2008, McClatchy common stock fell below $1 per share. The market capitalization of the company fell below $100 million, down over 98% since the purchase of Knight Ridder in early 2006. In 2010-2011, the stock had recovered off of its low, but is still down over 90% from the peak.
In 2016, McClatchy approved a 1 for 10 reverse stock split that boosted the price of its shares to over $11.
McClatchy has an Internet subsidiary, McClatchy Interactive (formerly known as Nando Media), which provides business support and material for Internet media (part of the News & Observer purchase). Other operations include Newsprint Ventures Inc., a consortium that operates the Ponderay newsprint mill near Spokane, Washington.
McClatchy also inherited a partnership with the Tribune Company in the news service Knight Ridder-Tribune Information Services, now McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), when it acquired Knight Ridder. In 2014, Tribune bought out McClatchy's share of the company and its headquarters moved to Chicago.
McClatchyDC is a news agency that distributes original reporting based out of McClatchy's Washington, D.C. bureau, which was acquired from Knight Ridder. It is the largest client of the McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
In 2008, McClatchy's bureau chief in D.C., John Walcott, was the first recipient of the I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence, awarded by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism. In accepting the award, Walcott commented on McClatchy's reporting during the period preceding the Iraq War:
Why, in a nutshell, was our reporting different from so much other reporting? One important reason was that we sought out the dissidents, and we listened to them, instead of serving as stenographers to high-ranking [Bush administration] officials and Iraqi exiles.
McClatchy journalists have also won nine Pulitzer prizes in their 159-year history.
On August 4, 2013, McClatchy Newspapers, citing anonymous sources, reported on conversations between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, discussing an alleged imminent terrorist attack. Two days previously, The New York Times had agreed to withhold the identities of the Al Qaeda leaders after US intelligence officials claimed the information could jeopardize their operations. Government analysts and officials interviewed by the Times said the impact of this disclosure caused more immediate damage to American counterterrorism efforts than the thousands of classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden due to a sharp drop in the terrorists’ use of a major communications channel that the authorities were monitoring. Subsequently, officials have been searching for new ways to monitor communications among Al Qaeda's leaders and operatives.
Note: (*)—Indicates newspaper acquired in 2006 Knight Ridder purchase.