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Newspapers: Time for a Hail Mary Pass

Today's top story in the newspaper world is that the Chicago Tribune seems to be headed towards bankruptcy.
Tribune has hired bankruptcy advisers as the ailing newspaper company faces a potential bankruptcy filing...

The newspaper, which was taken private last year by billionaire investor Samuel Zell, has hired advisers including Lazard and Sidley Austin...Tribune has been hobbled by debt related to that sale last year, which has been compounded by the growing drought of advertising for newspapers.

We sold Topix a little over 3.5 years ago to each of Tribune, Knight Ridder and Gannet. At that point, the three big newspaper companies were still relatively healthy. A lot has changed since then:

* In 2006, Knight Ridder was bought by McClatchy for approximately $4 billion. McClatchy's market cap as close last Friday: $181 million.

* In 2007, Tribune was taken private by Sam Zell. It's now is headed towards bankruptcy to restructure the very debt that allowed the private deal to happen.

* Gannett remains in the best shape of the three - their market cap still is over $2 billion. However, when we did the Topix deal in 2005, Gannett's stock was trading around $80/share. It closed last Friday at $8.92.

I know a lot has been written about the newspaper business and their drive to extinction - including many entries on this blog. Suffice it to say it boils down to wrong product at the wrong time with the wrong brands. Print: dead. Classified's: lost. Online: not working. No amount of window dressing can change these things.

It's time for a a strategy change. To use a football analogy, it's nearing the end of the 4th quarter. Three yards and a cloud of dust isn't working. You need a big play - the clock is about to expire. It's time for the Hail Mary pass. Throw it now, if its not already too late.

UPDATE: Done deal - Tribune went chapter this morning.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 7, 2008 4:54 PM.

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