Winona Daily News parent files bankruptcy

This actually broke last week, but Winona Daily News owner Lee Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday, Bloomberg News reports.

Corporate and local sources say Winona’s operations are not expected to be affected. The Iowa-based Lee is filing what’s known as a “pre-packaged” bankruptcy, where the terms are already worked out with key creditors. Essentially, Lee will borrow even more money to operate its 350 publications and get more time to make creditors whole.

Given that Lee has reported declining revenue the past three years, Winona’s operations could well be affected at some point.

Lee’s chairwoman and CEO is Mary Junck, who was the Pioneer Press’s publisher and president in the early ’90s. Junck was the one who borrowed big in 2005 to buy Pulitzer, Inc., which published the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It proved to be a spectacularly mistimed acquisition reminiscent of Avista Capital Partners’ acquisition of the Star Tribune. But unlike Avista’s Chris Harte, Junck still has her job.

Lee lists Winona’s daily circulation at 9,420, with 10,351 on Sunday.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Kevin Reichard on 12/12/2011 - 01:42 pm.

    Winona won’t be affected because there’s a very, very small staff actually producing the Winona paper — no sports editor, for instance. The majority of the staff in the area is under the La Crosse Tribune banner, and publisher Rusty Cunningham works out of La Crosse, as does classified and circulation. For instance, Jeff Brown covers Winona State basketball for the Winona paper, but he does so under his duties as the La Crosse sports editor. Really, the only way to get smaller is to close down the skeleton staff still located in Winona and move them all to La Crosse. So what happens with Lee realistically won’t matter in Winona because there’s nothing to cut unless the whole local office is shut down.

  2. Submitted by Bob Sebo on 12/12/2011 - 05:10 pm.

    It is true…they have printed in La Crosse for years and they down-sized into a suite of offices in a business park a while back. I think the loss of a local publisher does not portend well.

    I wish them the best. Winona deserves a strong daily paper. The corporate missteps obviously do not reflect on local operations.

    The Whites would be mortified, though.

  3. Submitted by Greg Price on 12/13/2011 - 09:59 am.

    I hope that Lee comes out of it well…

    they also own the papers in Alexandria MN,

    Duluth MN,and Grand Forks ND(which serves East
    Grand Forks,MN) as well…

    Notably…this has not been mentioned in any of those three newspapers…

  4. Submitted by Kevin Reichard on 12/13/2011 - 12:41 pm.

    Forum Communications out of Fargo owns Duluth, Alex and Grand Forks, Greg. Lee’s only Minnesota paper is Winona. It’s an odd little chain; there seems to have been no philosophy in putting together the chain in terms of efficiencies (past La Crosse and Winona, ironically); in fact, in Madison, Wis., its deal with the Cap Times is precisely the opposite of efficient.

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