Second media-undertaker post today, and on such a nice afternoon …
So the good folks at Bloomberg have caused a bit of a stir with a story listing newspaper companies on the brink of default — including MediaNews Group, owner of the Pioneer Press.
Scary news it may be, but new news it isn’t.
The story’s main source, Standard & Poor’s analyst Emile Courtney, issued a report in March with exactly the same brink-of-default debt info Bloomberg presents today. (The news service does add MediaNews owner Dean Singleton’s default denial.)
The Bloomberg story omits one interesting change since this spring: MediaNews renegotiated its lending agreements … so the private company no longer publicly reports financial details to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In other words, it can now keep the public— and financial analysts — more in the dark about its financial situation.
I asked Courtney if Standard & Poor’s could continue to follow the company as closely, given the circumstances. He said his firm will still rate MediaNews debt, but “we may not likely publish financial statements to the same extent as in the past, which often happens when we have a public rating for a company with private numbers.”
In other words, if bankruptcy comes, the public may have less warning.
There’s no doubt the company is whacking costs, and content — though the worst cuts are happening elsewhere for now. See Monday’s post on the chain’s skinnier Quick Read Monday-Tuesday papers, coming to Salt Lake City and San Jose, but not, for now, to St. Paul.
Another sign of St. Paul’s relatively charmed position: the conglomerate noted for implacable labor hostility negotiated a shockingly benign PiPress contract last year; the four-year deal blocks layoffs through 2008, though New Year’s Eve will be a fraught time for the Bulldog’s troops.