The Idaho Business Review reports today on the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Lee Enterprises, owner of the Times-News newspaper in Twin Falls and 47 other daily newspapers. Reporter Brad Iverson-Long reports that no Times-News employees will be impacted, but the paper already has laid off a half-dozen reporters this year. Click below for his full report.
IDAHO BUSINESS REVIEW ~ Dec. 5, 2011
Twin Falls newspaper’s company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
By Brad Iverson-Long
Lee Enterprises, the owner of the Times-News in Twin Falls and 47 other daily newspapers, across the country announced that it is seeking Chapter 11 bankrupcy protection in an effort to refinance some of its $904.5 million in debt. The company said in a news release that it expects to complete restructuring in two months or less and that the process won’t affect its workers.
“All our digital and print products will be published as usual and no employees will be impacted,” Carl Schmidt, Lee’s vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, said in a company news release Dec. 2. “We expect to complete the restructuring process quickly and without disruption to our business, likely in 60 days or less.” The move allows the company to push back the maturity date of some of its debt from April 2012 to December 2015.
“This is welcome news for all who have a stake in Lee,” said Mary Junck, Lee’s chairman and chief executive officer. Lee is based in Davenport, Iowa. In addition to the Times-News, the company also owns Elko (Nev.) Daily Free Press, four daily papers in Montana, two dailies in Oregon and one in Washington state. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the largest circulation among Lee newspapers.
“It would’ve had more of an affect on people who work in our company headquarters in Davenport than it would have at any of our local papers,” said Times-News Publisher John Pfeifer. He said the paper continues to be profitable and had been solid the last 14 months.
Earlier this year, the Twin Falls paper took over daily printing for the Elko paper, which involves a 160 mile trip to Nevada over a mountain pass. “So far, the weather has been fine this late fall and things have gone really well,” Pfeifer said. The move meant that six people in Elko were laid off, though the company hired some drivers for the trip.
In addition, the paper has laid off at least six reporters this year. “It was a direct result of revenues being down and needing to ensure that the paper continued to do well financially,” Pfeifer said, saying the paper wanted to avoid raising advertising or subscription rates. He said the layoffs also put the Times-News more in line with similar Lee papers’ staffing.
One of the laid off reporters was Ariel Hansen, who had written feature stories for the Times-News. She said after she was let go, the paper has scaled back its features section from seven days a week down to four days a week. “They were trying to make cuts wherever it was feasible,” Hansen said.