MACLEAN, Virginia: The Gannet Company, America's largest newspaper publisher (and the UK's second largest) on Monday refuted "unwarranted" speculation that it has entered into sale negotiations - currently flavor of the month among US newspaper owners.

The rumor rapidly gained currency when it emerged in a SEC filing that Gannett - which publishes 85 daily newspapers, including national top-seller USA Today and nearly 1,000 non-daily publications - had altered its bylaws and compensation plans.

This was structured in a way that would accelerate payment of retirement and deferred compensation to executives were the company to be sold.

Given that such 'insurance' strategies often signal the hanging of a 'For Sale' ticket around a company's neck, analysts and journos enthusiastically committed such thoughts to their blogs.

Such was the wildfire pace with which the rumor spread, that Gannett chairman/ceo Craig Dubow penned a hasty memo to staff assuring them the company has no such plans.

"None of the bloggers called and checked with us before speculating that we were preparing for a sale," Dubow wrote in the memo obtained by Reuters. "We are not."

"A change in control of Gannett is not in the works or even anticipated. What we were doing is making routine amendments to our bylaws and compensation plans."

Data sourced from USA Today and Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff