What began more than two centuries ago as a single newspaper in Augusta, Ga., today has grown into a diversified, midsize media company.
Morris Communications Company, LLC's diverse holdings not only span the United States—from Alaska to Florida to Texas to Minnesota—but also extend into the United Kingdom and the principality of Monaco. Its event marketing company, National Barrel Horse Association, also has franchises in China, Italy, Venezuela, France, Panama and other countries.
A private, family-owned company, Morris Communications traces its beginnings to a corporate structure dating from the 1800s. The modern-day company was born in 1945 with the creation of Southeastern Newspapers Inc., which later grew to become Morris Communications Corp. in 1970.
The major thrust of the multimedia corporation continues to be newspaper publishing, but its diversity has led to other endeavors that include magazines and specialized publications, book publishing and distribution, radio broadcasting, visitor publications, event marketing, commercial printing and online services.
William S. (Billy) Morris III, who established Morris Communications more than four decades ago, is chairman and chief executive officer. William S. (Will) Morris IV, his oldest son, is president.
The Morris family became involved with The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle in 1929, when 26-year-old William S. Morris Jr., father of today's chairman and CEO, became a bookkeeper at the daily newspaper. The Chronicle started in 1785 as the Augusta Gazette, the fledgling town's first newspaper. Today, Morris Communications maintains corporate headquarters only a few blocks from the site of its modest beginnings.
In 1945 Morris and a friend purchased controlling interest in the newspaper. Ten years later, Morris and his wife, Florence bought the remainder of the outstanding stock, along with the afternoon Augusta Herald.
Billy Morris, who delivered newspapers from horseback in his hometown as a boy, joined the company in 1956, a few days before his 22nd birthday, as assistant to the president. He became publisher of the two Augusta newspapers and president of the corporation 10 years later.
With the two Augusta newspapers as its base, the company started its expansion with the purchase of a radio station and a television station in Augusta and two other daily newspapers in Georgia - in Savannah and Athens. Then it was on to Alaska ... Texas ... Florida. The highway to spanning the nation and beyond had begun.
The company acquired its largest-circulation paper, The Florida Times-Union and also another daily, The St. Augustine (Fla.) Record, with the purchase of Florida Publishing Co. in Jacksonville on Jan. 1, 1983.
In 1985 Morris Communications moved into outdoor advertising with the purchase of Naegele Outdoor Advertising Inc., which was renamed Fairway Outdoor Advertising.
Morris Communications's largest expansion in numbers of properties occurred in 1995 with the purchase of all outstanding stock of Stauffer Communications Inc., in Topeka, Kan. The purchase included daily newspapers, nondaily newspapers, shoppers, television and radio stations and other properties.
Strengthened by this merger, Morris Communications has continued to grow and seek diversity in holdings that further its objective of becoming the pre-eminent source of news, advertising, entertainment and related services in the communities it serves.
Understanding the profit potential in the travel industry and the clear synergy with its existing presence in outdoor recreation markets, Morris purchased Best Read Guide Franchise Corp. in 1997. Morris added the upscale in-room travelers guides Guest Informant and Where® in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Now, the second-largest Morris division is Morris Visitor Publications, which provides advertisers with a targeted vehicle to attract literally trillions of dollars to their businesses.
The company expanded overseas in 1998 with the acquisition of Cadogan Guides, London, England, and created Morris Publications Ltd. UK, a subsidiary of Morris Communications. Later that year Morris purchased London this Week, a visitor publication now named the LONDON PLANNER.
Morris Publishing Group was formed in 2001 and assumed the operations of the newspaper business segment of its parent, Morris Communications Co. The company has a concentrated presence in the Southeast.
Morris Publishing Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of Morris Communications Company LLC and publishes 12 daily, 11 nondaily and numerous free community newspapers in the United States.
Morris Publishing Group is fully engaged in meeting the industry imperative of building and maintaining circulation in a competitive media climate. The division also is dedicated to greater operational efficiency and economies of scale through Project STAR, a corporatewide strategy for shared services.
The company has moved into the 21st century with optimism and enthusiasm, fortified by its heritage, its success and the dedication of its employees.
Upon this foundation, Morris Communications will continue to build market share, develop new revenue streams and serve its diverse audiences with practical, relevant products.