UPDATED WITH OFFICIAL COMPANY STATEMENT (below)
Billionaire financier and husband of Chellie Pingree Donald Sussman will own a 75-percent stake in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and its sibling papers, according to the terms of a deal announced today. Previously Sussman had been loaning the company $3.
In the department of Pyrrhic victories: The Portland Newspaper Guild, the union representing most of the workers at the Portland Press Herald, is celebrating its non-immolation in contract negotiations and discussions to avoid the newspaper going bankrupt. (See also this, and this.)
We'll give the party planning committee some credit for ironic self-awareness, and assume that they intended things to be a little ridiculous when they planned such an event for April 1.
From a note to union members today:
The talks with the potential investors, Chris Harte and Aaron Kushner, have broken down. The investors and the Guild made significant progress. However, the Guild Negotiations Committee rejected the proposed deal because of the inability to secure an agreement that would protect the contract if the company filed for bankruptcy.
Here's the latest information from the Portland Newspaper Guild about the contract changes proposed by the prospective new owners of MaineToday Media. It looks like a huge change in power, toward management and away from workers, including forcing the Guild to bid against vendors in a global competition to provide services to the company, and stripping the Guild of its seats on the company's board of directors.
The unions at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, and the Morning Sentinel have approved the latest contract. (See below for the text of the contract.) This apparently frees MaineToday Media to seek refinancing of its debt and make a sizeable investment in technology.
In votes tallied separately in Portland and Waterville, there were 118 yes votes and 6 no votes in Portland; 11 yes votes, zero no votes, and one abstention in Waterville.
A sequence of events leading up to - and possibly related to
- the abrupt resignation of Richard Connor from MaineToday Media today.
June 2009 Richard Connor buys the Portland Press
Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal, and Central Maine Morning
Sentinel from the Blethen family. The deal involves part ownership by the
members of the newspapers' employee unions, as well as investments from major
real-estate developers in the Portland
Richard Connor has resigned from MaineToday Media, according to a report on the company's website and an email that just went out to union members.
Al Diamon at DownEast has info on machinations relating to the departure here: http://www.downeast.com/media-mutt/2011/october/mainetoday-media-executive.
Here's a memo Portland Newspaper Guild president Tom Bell sent to union members at the Press Herald this afternoon. There will be 33 layoffs; and the union is (at long last) getting a peek at the financial records of the company it partly owns. And, uh, sorry about that last line, there, Tom...
The company is eliminating 53 Guild positions.
The first public in-house criticism of the Portland Press Herald's donation of $46,000 worth of advertising to a political campaign (the elected mayor one) has been published in the Columbia Journalism Review. The text isn't online as of this posting, but you can check here to see if it is now.
It includes criticism from both Greg Kesich, an editorial page writer, and Tom Bell, a political reporter who also heads the employees' union.
Commenting has resumed on the Press Herald site. Time will tell whether the new system reels in the loonies.
According to a note posted this afternoon on the Press Herald's Web site, there will no longer be online comments for any stories.
This does not appear to be the case for owner/editor/publisher Richard Connor's other newspaper holding, the Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Times-Leader, which as of 5:30 this afternoon still allowed comments on every story I checked.
Let me join the social-networking buzz commending Justin Ellis's eloquent, impassioned takedown of Press Herald editor/publisher Richard Connor's ill-conceived "apology" for a well-written, beautifully photographed article on the Eid festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Yes, the story ran in print and online on September 11.
Richard Connor's office has issued the following statement. See my column in tomorrow's Portland Phoenix addressing these events.
Richard Connor is clearly not in the real-estate business.
He bought a landmark Portland
property in June and sold it in July for no profit. And while he paid
significantly less than the assessed value according to city records, perhaps
he was just trying to break
even on that part of the deal, which bought him three newspapers and rather a
lot of real estate for a total of an estimated $30 million to $40 million.
UPDATED WITH LINK TO THE UNION'S SUMMARY OF THE CONTRACT.
After months and months of trying to put together a deal (and after years of preparation on the part of the Blethens), it appears that Richard Connor, the union-busting Bangor native who runs the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader newspaper in Pennsylvania, may be close to actually getting ink on paper to buy the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, the Kennebec Journal, and associated Web sites and - most importantly - about $30 million in real estate