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AG to Fight Journal Register Co.’s Shutdown Bonuses for Executives

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Connecticut State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told Paul Bass of the alternative New Haven Independent that his is putting up a fight against the Journal Register Co.’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case in an attempt to block bonuses planned for executives in return for shutting down newspapers and laying off more employees.

The Journal Register is the owner of a multitude of weekly community papers in a multiple states that face closure or have already ceased publication. The Yardley, Pa.-based company owns 20 daily newspapers and about 180 weeklies.

The company announced in its proposed bankruptcy reorganization plan that it wants to give 31 key executives about $1.7 million in bonuses if they meet certain goals. The company described these bonuses in some instances as “shutdown bonuses.”

Journal Register Co.’s debt is anywhere between $500 million and $1 billion. It reported under $500 million in assets in its court filings.

Erik Saas of MediaPost Publications gave this rundown of the newspapers that the Journal Register has closed (or may soon close) in the recent months:

Most recently, the company said Wednesday [Feb. 11] that it is closing eight weekly newspapers in upstate New York that were published by its Taconic Press group, some of which have already ceased production. These include the Millbrook Round Table, the Voice Ledger of Pleasant Valley, the Gazette-Advertiser of Rhinebeck, the Pawling News Chronicle, the Harlem Valley Times, the Hyde Park Townsman, the Register Herald of Pine Bluffs and the Putnam County Courier.

The company is also closing several other upstate weeklies, including Weekend, Dutchess Magazine and the Hudson Valley Guide. Early this month, it closed The Independent, a biweekly based in Hillsdale, NY.

In Connecticut, Journal Register has closed the Bloomfield Journal and is said to be preparing to close the Shoreline Times, Pictorial Gazette, Branford Review, Clinton Recorder and The Advertiser, of East Haven. Two daily newspapers, The Herald of New Britain and the Bristol Press, were saved from closure at the last minute when they were sold to Mike Schroeder, a former Newsday executive who also bought three weeklies: the Wethersfield Post, the Newington Town Crier, and the Rocky Hill Post. The East Hartford Gazette was closed, but its longtime editor Bill Doak has reincarnated it as “The Gazette,” serving as publisher, chief writer, and deliveryman.

In Michigan, Journal Register closed a number of weekly titles under its Up-North Publications division, including the Town Meeting of Elk Rapids, the Petoskey Citizen-Journal and the Northern Star. It is also said to be planning to close the Grand Traverse Insider, the Leader and Kalkaskian , the Antrim County News and the Petoskey-Charlevoix Star.

In Philadelphia, Journal Register closed a number of Philadelphia-area weeklies, including the Northeast Philadelphia Breeze, the News Gleaner, the Olney Times, the Germantown Courier, and the Mount Airy Times Express. It also closed the Hershey Chronicle.

The closing of these newspapers, which involved an unknown number of layoffs, is ironic in light of Journal Register’s buying spree in the 1990s and earlier this decade. It built a portfolio of about 300 weekly newspapers around the Northeast and Midwest, but loaded the company with a significant amount of debt as well.

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Written by newscycle

February 24, 2009 at 12:54 am

Posted in Layoffs

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