"The move is a mystery to me," the reader told me in an e-mail. "I thought he intended to retire in Sioux Falls. Don't know why he would move unless Gannett is going to sell the paper."
My reader was likely speculating about GCI's selling the Argus Leader. But I drew a different conclusion: Perhaps Gannett sent Garson to Louisville as interim publisher, assigned to run the paper while Corporate peddles it to possible buyers.
Now, that would be a tough sale, given the collapse in the market for newspapers over the past year. Still, I'll speculate on one possible buyer: very well-connected local businessman David Jones, co-founder of healthcare giant Humana Inc. of Louisville. (Jones is a longtime friend of my parents, and he welcomed me to Louisville when I worked at the Courier-Journal in 1996-2000. But I've had no contact with him or anyone familiar with his thinking since I left Louisville.) In any case, another reader discounts my scenario, writing in a new comment: "David Jones is too smart to buy into a failing business like the newspaper industry."
By Gannett's nomadic-executive standards, Garson had deep roots in Sioux Falls -- another reason to wonder about this new move. He'd been publisher there since 1996, and is leaving behind a family retreat where he spent weekends during the summer: a cabin on Iowa's Lake Okoboji, east of Sioux Falls.
Will Garson buy -- or rent?
If I were a Courier-Journal employee, I'd watch to see if Garson buys a home in Louisville -- rather than renting one. Here's why: In Little Rock, Ark., when I worked for the Gannett-owned Arkansas Gazette, we were puzzled when Corporate sent in its third publisher in a desperate attempt to save the failing paper -- or so we thought.
Mo Hickey arrived in the spring of 1991. But instead of buying, he rented a condominium. His family stayed behind wherever he was living at the time, and I recall Hickey's commuting back there on weekends. About six months after he came to Little Rock, we learned the true reason for his posting: Gannett shut down that money-losing paper, selling its presses and other assets to the crosstown competition. About 700 of us lost our jobs, in what I believe was the single-biggest layoff in Gannett's history.
There are no doubt many Courier-Journal employees who would welcome new ownership. Many staffers there still recall working for the Bingham family, owners of the paper and other media properties until 1986, when they sold to Gannett amid a high-profile dispute among Bingham siblings.
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[Image: today's Courier-Journal, Newseum]