The current directors, starting top row, left to right: Craig Dubow, Howard Elias, Arthur Harper, John Louis, Marjorie Magner, Scott McCune, Duncan McFarland, Donna Shalala, Neal Shapiro and Karen Hastie Williams. Their brief bios start on page 8 of this year's shareholders proxy report.
Gannett's 10-member governing board has held its quarterly meeting during the final week of October for each of the past five years, and this month will follow that tradition, a reader tells me. The coming week's meeting likely would include approval of a quarterly dividend.
We hope it also will include a status report on a high-profile executive vacancy, that of chief digital officer -- a position that's now been empty 200 days. That ought to fall under the purview of the five-member Digital Technology Committee, which includes Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow. It's hard to take the company's digital aspirations seriously without a full-time digital chief. (For the moment, I'm told, that explains why Gracia Martore's unofficial title is president, chief operating officer, chief financial officer and acting CDO, plus would-be chairman and CEO.)
A dividend history
The payout has been four cents a share for seven consecutive quarters now, producing a yield of 1.3%, based on Friday's closing price of $12.18 a share. (Current stock price.) It was slashed 90% in February 2009, when the company was in grave financial straits. (History of dividends.) Since then, GCI has been using available cash to pay down debt: $210 million in this year's third quarter.
During the quarterly earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts, the dividend did not come up. In response to a question about paying down debt, however, Martore said: "We're going to continue to do a good job on that front. Obviously a lot will depend on if there are some investment opportunities that we think are worthy to look at, that would certainly play into it. We also have different dynamics in the fourth quarter with some of our cash requirements. So we'll just have to see how that plays out. We'll give a little bit more guidance on that in early December when we present at the conferences."