MediaNews, Bankruptcy and the Fog of Media War

Jan. 19, 2010 7:23 AM ETGCI, LEE, MNIQQ
Ken Doctor profile picture
Ken Doctor

Who will be next? And is the mating of banko companies the look of the next year?

Dean Singleton bit the bitter bullet last week. After staving off bankruptcy for all of 2009, telling MediaNews execs that the company would not need to take that route, the company succumbed. MediaNews is following Morris into bankruptcy, both taking the neater, pre-packaged route, allowing quicker movement through the courts and, importantly, a continuity of leadership.

Put together the long list of bankruptcies – Star-Tribune, Tribune, Philadelphia Media Holdings, Journal Register, Sun-Times Group, Freedom, Morris, MediaNews and some smaller ones – and you’ve got quite a chunk of America’s dailies. With MediaNews – publisher of 55 dailies – joining the second-largest US news publisher Tribune, industry guesses now turn to whether Lee (LEE), McClatchy (MNI) and Gannett (GCI) can get to the other side, without a game board stop on the banko square.

That other side, of course, is murky itself, but expect it to include more newspaper combos. Singleton, just as he was about to wheel his hard-built company into court, told the Wall Street Journal that he wanted to be the “aggressor” in the merger of newspaper properties. That’s an unlikely statement from most CEOs taking their companies into bankruptcies, but it’s pure Singleton irrepressibility [Excellent piece by MediaNews alum Martin Langeveld on MediaNews’ spirited 25-year rise at Nieman Lab]. After all, he and MediaNews president Jody Lodovic are set to emerge from the bankruptcy maintaining their management of the company (through a special class of stock) and with a 20% ownership stake, as other equity shareholders – including now-bitter, ex-partner Hearst, Skiffing off in its own direction, get nothing.

So imagine:

  • In the Twin Cities, the bankers who now own the Star Tribune decide to throw in their lot with Dean. After

This article was written by

Ken Doctor profile picture
Ken Doctor is an analyst with a ringside seat at the greatest story ever told about the global media industry. Fully employing more than 35 years of experience across a wide range of media, he’s become a go-to speaker, press source and consultant for legacy and emerging press around the world, talking about emerging Newsonomics. He writes regularly on the business of media change for Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab and for Capital New York. He also contributes to CNN Money and Politico. He is at work on his second book, following “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get,” which has been translated into Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Russian. All of his work can be found at his own website. In the past couple of years, he’s spoken to groups and worked with companies on four continents, from Berlin to Sydney, Moscow to Sao Paulo and Orlando to New York. Ken’s keynotes and engagements level with his audiences – and find the ways forward with company and industry strategy. The audiences – whether conferences, trade groups or staff groups, large or small – say they are both challenged and energized. The Newsonomics “practical forecasting” discipline is about fact and metrics, not journalistic religion nor habit, and derives from a trusted access across the legacy and digital news marketplace. A veteran of the digital media industry, he combines deep experience as an executive in strategy, revenue models and journalism. His experience includes 21 years with Knight Ridder, as well as time spent in the worlds of licensing, corporate development, business development and syndication.

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