Cox executives speak on successful investment in Polish newspaper

Cox Enterprises Inc. made its decision to invest in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza in part because the paper's value fit well with those of corporate Cox, Dean Eisner, vice president of Corporate Development at Cox Enterprises Inc., told faculty and students at the Henry Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Eisner and Jay Smith, president of Cox Newspapers Inc., a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, visited the Grady College as guests of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research.

Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox Center, said he invited Eisner and Smith to UGA because he wanted Grady undergraduate and graduate students to have a chance to learn about American media company decisions to invest abroad.

Eisner said the international venture represented by Cox's 12.5 percent stake in the media company Agora-Gazeta is and will remain an anomaly for locally-focused Cox Enterprises, but that Cox was "very happy" with the outcome of this investment.

Cox made its initial 12.5% investment of $5 million in 1993 in the Gazeta, a newspaper that grew out of the Solidarity trade movement. Gazeta itself was formed in 1989 when the communist authorities allowed Solidarity to have a paper of its own.

Even in 1993, Smith reported, Gazeta had the feel of a radical paper. "It reminded me of a college newspaper of the late 1960s and early 1970s," he said.

Gazeta today is the largest daily newspaper in Poland. It competes with other papers in its Warsaw home market and with papers nationally. The company also owns seven local radio stations, is a shareholder in Canal+ Polska, the largest pay TV service in the country, and has interests in printing and speciality advertising.

Eisner and Smith told the students the Cox investment had returned "a significant return over the past four years." It has produced dividends in excess of $1 million. Cox's 12.5 percent stake in the company is now worth $60 million, they reported.

Thirty-five undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty in the Journalism Department of the Grady College joined Eisner and Smith for an informal lunch before the presentation and question-and-answer session. Eisner and Smith toured the Grady College facilities after they spoke.

Eisner has been at Cox since early 1992 and served as treasurer of Cox Enterprises before moving to his current position in 1995. He has degrees from Purdue University and the University of Michigan and held positions at AGB, Sony, CBS and General Electric before joining Cox.

Smith was named president of Cox Newspapers in late 1994 and, in that capacity, has responsibility for overseeing 16 Cox newspapers as well as the company's interest in direct marketing, magazines and book publishing. Smith joined Cox in 1971 after graduating from The Ohio State University. He also holds a degree from the University of Dayton.