Western Communications in Bend, Oregon has put all seven of its newspapers in Oregon and California and related real estate up for sale while it seeks protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.
However, company owners plan to seek investors in order to preserve local control of the chain’s flagship paper, The Bulletin, as well as The Redmond Spokesman.
To market its newspapers, Western Communications has hired New Mexico newspaper merger and acquisition firm Dirks, Van Essen, Murray & April. The company owns five newspapers in addition to those in Redmond and Bend. They are the Baker City Herald, The Observer in La Grande the Curry Coastal Pilot in Brookings, plus two newspapers in California, the Del Norte Triplicate in Crescent City and The Union Democrat in Sonora.
The company also has engaged brokers in the sale of its real estate holdings, company President John Costa said.
“All the real estate is for sale,” Costa said. “We have valuable property.”
The Union Democrat distribution facility on Camage Avenue in Sonora sold recently for about $1 million, and the proceeds were used to pay property taxes and lower the company’s outstanding debt.
The bankruptcy filing, which was initiated on Jan. 22, lists creditors both secured and unsecured. Among those owed are shareholders, officers of the company and the Internal Revenue Service.
In an effort to balance expenses with revenues earlier this year the company laid off 33 employees companywide and required 13 employees to work reduced work weeks.
The company has furloughed workers and does not offer a qualified health insurance plan. During part of 2018, employee paychecks were delayed.
The Bulletin recently went through a redesign to reduce newsprint use while emphasizing local news coverage.
This is the second time Western Communications has filed for Chapter 11 protection. The first was in August 2011 to relieve financial pressure from a 3-year dispute with Bank of America, the company’s largest creditor at the time. Chapter 11 allows companies the time to reorganize while remaining in business.
“The family (the Chandler family and the stockholders) would like to keep The Bulletin,” Costa said. “It’s the strongest market.”