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Report: Pioneer Press owner planning bankruptcy?

Yesterday, in reporting on the PiPress layoffs, I noted that "there is no indication bankruptcy is imminent" for Denver-based owner Media News Group.

Now, there's an indication.

Via the Denver alt-weekly Westword, subscriber-only industry site Debtwire reports Media News is expected to implement a restructuring "through a pre-arranged or pre-packaged bankruptcy filing." Debtwire cites an unnamed source identified as "a lender and a sellside analyst."

A pre-packaged bankruptcy is one where creditors agree ahead of time to the restructuring plan, rather than hashing things out in court. The site quotes a second unnamed source saying MediaNews is talking to its creditors today about a "preliminary restructuring plan" that would turn an $832 million credit facility and another $450 million in bonds into equity ownership.

It's unclear whether Media News chairman Dean Singleton would remain in charge if this all goes down. Debtwire notes a forebearance agreement delaying creditor repayment ends Sept. 30.

The timing may explain why PiPress management pulled the plug last Thursday on negotiating layoff-forestalling concessions, even though a union vote had been scheduled for week.

Keep in mind, at this point, all I have is Westword's recapitulation of a subscriber-only Debtwire story I can't read based on two unnamed sources. I have calls into Debtwire and Media News for more details.

Westword's Michael Roberts notes that without bankruptcy, MediaNews faces a punishing repayment schedule. Citing a Debtwire-unearthed SEC filing, Roberts breaks repayment out thusly:

♦ A $235 million "revolver," or revolving loan, due December 2009;
♦ A $100 million term loan due December 2010;
♦ Another $147 million term loan due that same month;
♦ A third term loan, this one totaling $350 million, due August 2013;
♦ $300 million worth of 6.875 percent senior sub notes due in 2013; and
♦ $150 million of 6.375 percent senior sub notes due in 2014.

In 2007, the last full year it reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Media News had revenues of $1.3 billion. That number has almost certainly fallen since then, making repayment tougher — and the pressure on local papers that much more excruciating.

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