Tribune says L.A. operation lags

Forecasts for Southern California lowered

Austin Beutner
  • Austin Beutner
  • from LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce YouTube video

The Chicago Tribune has publicly stated that the Southern California operation of Tribune Publishing is not doing well financially, and doing poorly compared with the rest of the company.

Earlier this month, Tribune Publishing fired Austin Beutner as publisher of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Yesterday evening (September 18), the Chicago Tribune, located in the home of Tribune Publishing, lashed out at Beutner's handling of the Southern California wing.

Jack Griffin, chief executive of Tribune Publishing said the Los Angeles Times was not on the same page as the rest of the company when it came to "full and committed participation" in company initiatives. Those initiatives incllude disciplined handling of costs.

Said the article, "Sources have pointed to lagging financial performance, especially on the cost side, and a series of unusual executive hires" as leading to Beutner's dismissal. The "sources" are probably inside Tribune Publishing, which probably leaked the same information to media publications, which have cited the same reasons for Beutner's dismissal.

Tribune Publishing's chief financial officer pointed the finger right at Southern California: "Revised guidance reflects lower forecasted revenue estimates for the year, concentrated in Southern California," she said. Tribune Publishing stock has been beaten up in recent months.

What does this mean for employees of the Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times? Probably even more layoffs. As Matt Potter has pointed out in the Reader, the executive who replaced Beutner, Tim Ryan, has a reputation as the "layoff czar."

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Duh! Most everyone in San Diego knew that the Manchester deal was not going to work out just like everyone knew the clown head of Haggens had no idea of the San Diego grocery market.

AlexClarke: Are you talking about the Manchester deal to buy the U-T or the Manchester deal to sell it to Tribune Publishing?

U-T employees have an extremely uneasy feeling again. Tribune Publishing is tearing out the printing plant. So if the U-T purchase doesn't work out for Tribune, any new buyer will have to noodle out a printing arrangement. There are other printing options, -- say, satellite printing -- but.... Best, Don Bauder

The Manchester deal to sell the UT. I don't think Manchester has come out on the bad end of a deal too often.

AlexClarke: I'm not sure Manchester came out so well in dumping the U-T. Trouble is, there are so many hidden details in such deals that it is hard to know.. Best, Don Bauder

Methinks the Griffin be curled into a fetal ball. Any new operation, any new management, any new boss, needs a couple of years to find footing. Paranoid panic disorder, like pride, "goeth before a fall." This smells like a personal foul to me . . .

Twister — I think that all of the recent media takeovers are just part of a well laid out plan to eliminate any media opposition to the New Order that is taking over San Diego by storm. We are now only just beginning to see the effect of zero local media coverage as SD's MSM shifts into fluff and glitz mode, just like FOX News.

Gone are the days of our local media calling elected officials to task, that is unless some other Political hopeful has enough Corp. influence to get MSM to endorse them.

The new motto for San Diego is: The Big Bucks Stop Here

CaptD: What you call MSM -- mainstream media -- do seem to be going in for fluff, as the U-T did (with some prominent exceptions) before Copley sold it. Fluff often comes when reporters and editors are fearful of being laid off, and that is certainly the case with current U-T staffers. Best, Don Bauder

Twister: Getting curled into a ball is standard for heads of metro dailies. Best, Don Bauder

May be, but all this and thumb-sucking too?

Twister: It's a tough world out there, especially for journalists, including those in top management. Best, Don Bauder

Don — With the exception of the San Diego Reader, the main stream media (MSM) of SoCal has now been consolidated into one efficient Propaganda machine that also includes "faux" news outlets like VOSD. I believe that the SD Reader will see an increase in both its readership and the number of online viewers since ever more people are beginning to catch on to what MSM is trying to do, which is only promote for what it is being paid to promote. With good paying media jobs becoming ever harder to find, you can also be sure that anyone who is already employed will think very hard before they urge covering any stories that big Corp.'s might find offensive, like #SanOnofreGate, anything not supportive of giving the Chargers what ever they want or calling our electedLeaders out for not living up to their campaign promises .

CaptD: The big business establishment in San Diego wants SDG&E to get away with charging outrageous rates, and wants the taxpayers to bail out the Chargers to the tune of about $1 billion. Best, Don Bauder

If Mr. Broad does end up buying the Union-Tribune, he will most likely push charter schools, right? That is what I have heard, and it doesn't make me feel very happy.

eastlaker: Broad has pushed his favorite projects in the education arena. Yes, if Broad takes over the Southern California wing of Tribune Publishing, you can expect him to proselytize for the so-called education "reforms" that are his pet projects. Best, Don Bauder

NEW YORK TIMES, IN STORY ABOUT LA TIMES, SUGGESTS MORE LAYOFFS COMING. The New York Times this morning (lSeptember 21) has a long story on discontent at the LA Times as its owner, Tribune Publishing, attempts to centralize decision-making, with the Chicago headquarters playing a heavy role.

Here is a poignant paragraph: "Six people familiar with the newspaper's finances, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs or complicating an already difficult relationship between the newspaper and its parent, said further layoffs were imminent. They will be on the order of $10 million in savings, or about 80 jobs, those people said, and will fall mostly on the newsroom." The story doesn't say if some of the layoffs will be at the U-T.

The story also goes into detail about the difficult personality of Jack Griffin, chief executive of Tribune Publishing. John Huey, editor in chief of Time Inc.'s magazines at the time Griffin had a brief stay there, said, "When faced with the reality of a large, complex business like Time Inc., he had no clue what to do except to spend millions on multiple consulting firms. He was very threatened by strong players who pushed back so he replaced them with small-timers who, like he, weren't up to the task." Another former Time Inc. person lauded Griffin, however.

SHARES PLUNGING. Stock of Tribune Publishing is down 20.4 percent this morning to $8.43. That is a huge drop. Best, Don Bauder

L.A. FLAP NOT HITTING TRIBUNE PUBLISHING STOCK, SAYS ANALYST. THE PROBLEM IS LOUSY RESULTS AND LOW EXPECTATIONS OF FUTURE RESULTS. Douglas McIntyre of 24/7 Wall Street says that the battle between Chicago headquarters and the Los Angeles Times (and Los Angelenos) is not what is driving down Tribune Publishing stock today (September 21).

What has disappointed Wall Street is the company’s poor performance and expectations of more of the same. In the second quarter, total revenue dropped to $410 million from $430 million a year ago. Net income fell from $15 million to $3 million. Digital revenues were only up 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

On Friday (September 18), the company lowered its guidance for 2015. It had previously estimated that total revenues for the year would be $1.67 billion to $1.7 billion. On Friday it lowered that to $1.645 billion to $1.675 billion. It also lowered its expectation of cash flow.

Last year, the company boasted of its five-point plan to boost earnings. “From a profit and loss standpoint, the five-point plan is not working,” says McIntyre.

“The recent explosion of news about the future of the Los Angeles Times has overwhelmed the fact that Tribune Publishing does not have much of a future,” concludes McIntyre.

WHOM WILL U-T STAFFERS WORK FOR NEXT? AS TRIBUNE PUBLISHING STOCK CONTINUES TO FALL, RUMORS OF ANOTHER BUYER SURFACE. Stock of Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based newspaper group that is feuding with its biggest property, the Los Angeles Times, continues to fall. Today (September 23) it dropped another 1.57 percent to $8.15. It traded at almost three times that level last year.

Douglas McIntyre of the publication 247wallst.com, wrote today that the stock has fallen so far that the company could be a takeover target. Or, individual newspapers in the group could be sold. People in Southern California hope that billionaire Eli Broad will buy the L.A. Times and its Southern California partner, the Union-Tribune. But Broad, who has long coveted the property, could be beaten out by sharks wanting the entire Tribune Publishing or parts of it. Needless to say, U-T employees are nervous, as they have been for years. Best, Don Bauder

What the hell does this mean? ' "Revised guidance reflects lower forecasted revenue estimates for the year, concentrated in Southern California," she said. Tribune Publishing stock has been beaten up in recent months." '

Are they implying that all this was Beutner's fault? What were his specific mistakes? Being smarter than they are?

Twister: It's typical CFOese, except in this case the CFO was going out of her way -- no doubt at management's urging -- to put the blame for the lower guidance on Southern California, with which headquarters is feuding. Best, Don Bauder

L.A. ANALYST BLASTS TRIBUNE PUBLISHING. Hamed Khorsand of BWS Financial, Woodland Hills, today (September 24) ripped into management of Tribune Publishing. "We have slowly begun to doubt the capabilities of management to circumvent the declining investor sentiment, and their ability to profitably manage a newspaper company for the long haul."

Such a pronouncement will make Khorsand popular in L.A. Most leaders in the community are hoping that the L.A. Times and San Diego Union-Tribune will be sold out of Tribune Publishing. Best, Don Bauder

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