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GateHouse Lawyer Takes Gannett General Counsel Role After Merger (1)

Nov. 22, 2019, 10:45 AMUpdated: Nov. 22, 2019, 3:19 PM

The largest U.S. newspaper publisher has a new leader in its law department after Gannett Co. Inc. and GateHouse Media LLC finalized their merger this week.

Polly Grunfeld Sack, most recently general counsel at GateHouse, will serve as general counsel at Gannett, the media giant announced Nov. 20. GateHouse’s $1.1 billion purchase of Gannett, the parent company of USA Today and more than 100 other media outlets, was announced in early August and completed Nov. 19.

The combined company, which now owns 261 newspapers and hundreds of weekly publications across the U.S., will keep the Gannett name and the latter’s headquarters in McLean, Va. GateHouse is based near Rochester, N.Y.

Gannett president and CEO Michael Reed had said in an Oct. 31 securities filing that the merger would lead to between $275 million and $300 million in cost savings for the combined company.

Sack, who served as general counsel to both New Media and GateHouse, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the new role. Before joining GateHouse in 2006, Sack served as senior vice president and director of mergers and acquisitions for International Management Group, a sports, media, and entertainment company.

At Gannett, Sack and her corporate law expertise will succeed chief legal officer Barbara Wall, who also served as interim chief operating officer of the company at the time of its sale to GateHouse. Wall joined Gannett’s in-house legal department in 1985, was named senior associate counsel in 2009, and promoted to legal chief in 2015.

Gannett announced Oct. 29 that Wall would become a member of the combined company’s board of directors following the GateHouse deal. The company cited her “extensive First Amendment and legal expertise in addition to a deep knowledge” of Gannett’s history and operations.

Wall said in a phone call that her employment with Gannett will end on Jan. 3, 2020, but that she will remain a member of the combined company’s board. She declined further comment.

Elizabeth Allen, who took over Gannett’s general counsel role in March when Wall was promoted, told Bloomberg Law in an email that she is assisting with the law department’s transition but will leave the combined company in the first quarter of next year.

Tegna Inc., a McLean-based company spun-off from Gannett in 2015 that owns roughly 50 television and radio stations in the U.S., announced last year its appointment of general counsel Akinyale Harrison, a former associate general counsel at Gannett.

Harrison replaced Todd Mayman, a former general counsel at Gannett who retired from Tegna earlier this year.

(Adds comment from Wall in ninth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

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