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The Gannett Co., owner of the Central Florida Future and 92 daily newspapers and their digital operations, officially became a new company on Monday after spinning off from its television operations.

The new Gannett means the Future and its fellow publications — including USA Today and its parent newspaper FLORIDA TODAY — will be staking a foothold in an ever-evolving media landscape that emphasizes reaching its audience through a combination of digital, print and other products.

Many of those changes have already been occurring at the Future where reporters and editors have been pushing a digital-first mindset, as well as traditional aggressive watchdog journalism.

"Today is an important day for our organization," said Jeff Kiel, president and publisher of FLORIDA TODAY. "FLORIDA TODAY and our sister local media companies, and USA Today, have been at the forefront of transforming ourselves into a next-generation media company."

Future employees celebrated becoming a part of the "new Gannett" at a series of events Monday at the FLORIDA TODAY building in Melbourne. Employees were greeted with a towering doughnut display and enjoyed a picnic lunch complete with a bounce house and a chance to soak colleagues such as Kiel and columnist Matt Reed in a dunking booth. The work day ended with live music and raffles. Similar celebrations were held across the country at Gannett sites, including at its corporate headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

Gannett announced last August its plans to split its newspaper division and related digital sites from its broadcast and digital products operation. The change comes as the Future has spent considerable time and resources boosting its website — centralfloridafuture.com — and redesigning its print product.

"With this move, I believe you will see our pace of change continue to accelerate," Kiel said. "Our goal is to play a role in empowering our communities to connect, take action and thrive."

Gannett's former TV stations, as well as digital properties such as Cars.com and CareerBuilder.com, now operate under the banner of TEGNA.

Gannett said the publishing company "initially will be virtually debt-free" and expects to pay a regular cash dividend of 64 cents per share a year. It'll also start a $150 million share buyback program to be completed over a three-year period, it said. Gannett also plans to open a revolving line of credit of about $500 million.

TEGNA plans to start a $750 million share buyback program to be completed over a three-year period. At spinoff, TEGNA will retain the former company's current debt of about $4.4 billion but have a revolving credit of about $1.3 billion. It expects to pay a regular cash dividend of 56 cents per share a year. "Combined with new Gannett's expected dividend, [it] represents a 10 percent increase over the current Gannett dividend," the company said.

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Contact Price at 321-242-3658 or wprice@floridatoday.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Fla2dayBiz.

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