Last week was tough for the folks at the Seattle Times Co. The flagship Seattle Times carried through on a plan to cut the paper's staff of 1,845 by about 7 percent, or 125 employees. The cuts, announced in April, are part of a broad effort by the company to trim expenses. According to the Times, the cuts included 73 layoffs and 52 voluntary departures.
That effort also involves a plan to sell the company's Blethen Maine Newspapers chain, which includes three dailies and a Web site. The Times Co. borrowed about $230 million to buy the chain in 1998, and Times Co. Chief Executive Frank Blethen said the company is hoping to recoup about half that much. Only one potential buyer for the chain has been identified – the union representing editorial employees at the Maine newspapers said it is considering a bid but has not yet made an offer. At least two other Maine-based groups told Crosscut recently they had considered bids, primarily for the chain's real estate, but decided not to make offers.
Meanwhile, in a federal securities filing last Friday, May 9, Sacramento-based McClatchy Co., which owns 49.5 percent of the Times Co. voting stock, disclosed it is continuing to devalue its stake in the company. In a quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, McClatchy said it lowered the value of the Times holding by 37.5 percent, reducing the value to $12 million. In 2006, when it acquired the Times Co. stake in a purchase of Knight Ridder, McClatchy valued the holding at $102.3 million. Those values obviously factor in the fact McClatchy's minority holding comes with no tangible influence over how the Seattle Times Co. is run.
The Times Co. is privately held and does not disclose finances. A spokesperson for the company was not immediately available to comment.
Besides The Seattle Times, the Seattle Times Co. owns the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin in Washington and, in Maine, the Portland Press-Herald and Sunday Maine Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville – plus three weeklies, Web sites including NWsource.com, real estate, and Rotary Offset Press in Kent, Wash.