Owner: Media General Inc.
Date: April 14, 2008
Updated: June 25, 2008
Buyouts are being offered to half of the staff of the Tampa Tribune, WFLA-TV, Sunbelt Newspapers, Suncoast News, Hernando Today, Highlands Today and Centro Grupo de Comunicacion. Layoffs are possible.
Source: Tampa Bay Business Journal; Editor & Publisher
Tampa Bay Business Journal – by Michael Hinman
As many as 54 employees of The Tampa Tribune, WFLA-Channel 8 and TBO.com have accepted buyout offers from Media General Inc. as the publishing and broadcasting company continues to trim its work force.
In a memo to employees from Florida Communications Group president John Schueler obtained by Creative Loafing, the number of employees accepting the buyout accounted for less than 10 percent of the 650 people who were eligible for it.
The buyout program was announced in April and was offered to half of the 1,326 employees who work for the Tampa division of Richmond, Va., Media General (NYSE: MEG), which represents its largest media market. Those accepting the buyout could receive severance deals that would offer a settlement equivalent of up to 39 weeks of pay.
Media General expects to spend $5 million in severance packages in the second quarter of 2008 while picking up an annual saving of $40 million from a net reduction of 750 positions that was announced last month.
Schueler did not share whether or not the 54 buyouts met the goal the company was looking for but in his memo said a layoff program was still on the table. He told the Associated Press that another 50 to 60 positions would need to be cut.
Advertising operations had 21 positions eliminated on Tuesday.
“These plans are being announced within departments and to individual departments and to individual employees as they are finalized,” Schueler said in the memo to employees. “Some are happening now and others will occur over the next few weeks.”
Media General reported a loss of $20.3 million, or 91 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2008 ended March 30 compared to a $6.5 million loss, or 27 cents per share, the company reported the year before. First quarter revenue was down from $218.3 million in 2007 to $194.5 million in 2008.
Media General shares closed at $13.56, down $1.22, Thursday. They had been trading as high as $35.42 over the past 52 weeks and had fallen as low as $12.96.
By Mark Fitzgerald
Published: April 14, 2008 2:45 PM ET
CHICAGO — Media General Inc.’s Florida Communications Group, parent of The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV, said Monday it is offering voluntary buyouts to about half of its 1,326 employees.
Group President John Schueler said in an announcement on the Tribune’s TBO.com Web site that the buyouts are a way to cut costs significantly in the difficult economic climate of Tampa Bay.
Media General, in its latest financial report, said much of the chain’s difficulties can be traced to its Tampa Bay media properties. The region, and all of Florida, has been hurt badly by a housing collapse that has spread pain throughout many other industries.
Media General is facing a proxy showdown at its annual meeting later this month with Harbinger Capital Partners, a big shareholder group that argues the Richmond, Va.-based newspaper publisher and broadcast owner has not done enough to contain costs. Harbinger has suggested selling the Tribune, which Media General has said would be foolish.
The Tampa buyout program includes severance packages that for some employees could go as high as 39 weeks of pay.
Layoffs are possible if not enough employees accept the buyouts, Schueler said.
Other media properties included in the buyout offer are Sunbelt Newspapers, Suncoast News, Hernando Today, Highlands Today, and Centro Grupo de Comunicacion.