McClatchy, the second largest US newspaper group, announced that it was filing for bankruptcy protection in the latest sign of turmoil for the struggling media sector.
The company said it would keep operating its 30 regional newspapers including the Miami Herald and Kansas City Star as it seeks to shed much of its debt and focus on “digital transformation.”
A reorganization plan included in the bankruptcy filing could hand over ownership of the newspaper chain to the private equity group Chatham Asset
Management and end the McClatchy stock listing. The bankruptcy filing seeks to shed some of the crushing debt acquired by McClatchy, which has a pension shortfall of more than half a billion dollars.
“McClatchy remains a strong operating company with an enduring commitment to independent journalism that spans five generations of my family,” said board chairman Kevin McClatchy.
“This restructuring is a necessary and positive step forward for the business.” The move comes amid deepening turmoil in the newspaper industry, with most of the “legacy” companies struggling with the shift to digital news and tech platforms taking up much of the online advertising revenues.
Gannett, the largest US newspaper publisher, agreed last year to a merger with rival GateHouse in a deal aiming for bigger scale to face the challenges of the troubled sector.
Some former prestigious dailies have faced bankruptcy and others have seen the value of their companies drop precipitously.
An estimated 2,000 local US newspapers, most of them weeklies, have disappeared over the past decade as have about half of newspaper jobs, according to various studies.
Craig Forman, McClatchy’s president and chief executive, expressed optimism that the company can keep its journalistic traditions after reorganizing.
“In this important moment for independent local journalism in the public interest, a reorganized capital structure will enable McClatchy to continue to pursue our strategy of digital transformation and continue to produce strong local journalism essential to the communities we serve,” Forman said.
The McClatchy papers have won numerous awards but the company has been saddled in debt, which has increased with its 2006 acquisition of rival Knight-Ridder for USD 4.5 billion.