Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Martore on more layoffs: 'We have currently no intentions of looking at further reductions'

Following is a key exchange between analyst Craig Huber of the Access Three Forty Two firm and COO Gracia Martore, during yesterday's conference call about the second-quarter earnings report. This is based on Seeking Alpha's transcript:

Huber: I understand you eliminated about roughly 3% of your U.S. newspaper workforce here in the quarter. Are you expecting to do that again here in the September quarter?

Martore
Martore: Craig, it was about 2% announced layoffs in U.S. Community Publishing. And as we've said, we have currently no intentions of looking at further reductions. But obviously, that has to be driven by each individual business’s prospects and revenue opportunities going forward. But at the same time, we have been adding back in key Digital areas, as well as on the Broadcast division. We've been adding folks on the news side, as well as in the sales area. So it's really -- you can't just hone in on one specific division, you have to look at the company in totality and the varying performances in each one of our businesses. And even within U.S. Community Publishing, the varying performances of each of the individual units and the prospects for the economies in those particular markets.

Truth check
When asked these questions, Martore and CEO Craig Dubow always leave wiggle room. For example, during the first-quarter conference call, Huber asked "if you're planning on doing newspaper furloughs again here in the second quarter."

In fact, furloughs were already underway. At first, Dubow prevaricated, then Martore spoke more forthrightly, knowing it's never a good idea to mislead Wall Street. Here's the exchange:

Dubow: As we always do, we take that element very, very seriously. We're going to see how the quarter starts shaping. And again, it will be a position that we look at as we move forward.

Martore: Although I will say, Craig, in our publishing, U.S. Community Publishing, we are taking some minor furloughs, about 1,000 folks or so, and that at this point is the extent, basically, of the furloughs that we are taking across the company."

As it turns out, Corporate extended unpaid furloughs for those approximately 1,000 highly paid employees into the current quarter.

Similarly, Martore was asked in late October if Corporate expected any "significant" severance costs -- in other words, layoffs -- during the fourth quarter. She said: "Not at the present time."

A more candid reply would have been: "Not at this time, but we're about to launch a new round of layoffs."

That is because just 19 days later, the company eliminated what Gannett Bloggers eventually said were 255 jobs at 63 worksites.

32 comments:

  1. See here is a good example of where you talk a good game but you really don't have a clue, and your so called reporting shows it. The layoff discussions DID NOT begin until after the call. Now you wouldn't know that because you weren't there and as time has proven, other thN the great job you did with the Newseum story, facts aren't something you care much about. Sorry Jim but it's time a "troll" stood up and set the record straight. Feel free to attack Jum fans but in this case your boy is dead wrong. In the real world he be offering an apology and a correction tomorrow but thus is not.......

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  2. 5:48 When that conference call was taking place on Oct. 15, I had already been told by a reader in the field that layoffs were planned for the weeks ahead. Indeed, I think my reader even gave me the date: Nov. 3. And that's, in fact, when they were eventually announced.

    What's more, your statement that layoff discussions occurred after the call defies logic. That would mean Corporate assembled layoff lists from the field, ran them through legal and HR, and got them revised to withstand any lawsuits -- all in 19 days, including weekends.

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  3. jim....no, youre wrong. the layoff planning did happen that fast. the numbers and projections drastically changed and they moved real fast to react -- knowing the call was coming. 19 days is basically three weeks. You really think money people dont work weekends to respond to a crisis? 5:48 is correct.

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  4. Invoking Gannett's "good enough" policy of emphasizing speed over accuracy, Jim is excused. If you want improvements at Gannett Blog, send more money. One tenth of one percent of Gannett's blood-stained pre-tax earnings will allow Jim to spend less time holding out a tin cup and hire a research assistant.

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  5. Your mole was absolutely wrong. You can pontificate all day long. I was there, you weren't. It happened in a matter of days. But don't let the truth get in the way

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  6. 7:24 You say they "moved real fast to react -- knowing the call was coming."

    That's my point: When the conference call occurred, they were already planning layoffs -- but withheld that information from the analysts.

    You are contradicting 5:48, who says planning started AFTER the call.

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  7. Nail them coonskins to the wall, Jim

    (signed) The ghost of LBJ

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  8. The truth is, layoffs DID happen and furloughs are STILL happening. I don't give a rat's ass about the timing, I just know the facts are there and this Blog is more right than wrong, whether Corporate wants to admit it or not. It sucks having everybody dislike you so much that they can't wait to leak to the public what you're doing, doesn't it. If corporate were more like Cisco, this Blog wouldn't be necessary.

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  9. Jim's right.

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  10. 1. Layoffs will continue and there are plans for an additional 1,100 layoffs. Predominately from USCP.

    2. What Martore did not discuss on the conference call was the layoffs that will occur in Gannett Digital. She mentioned that "other Digital " areas were hiring, but she did not mention the pending 200 Gannett Digital employees that will be removed by Mr. Payne.

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  11. The management lackeys @5:48 & 7:24 perfectly illustrate the shallow, unsophisticated thought process of the typical Gannett executive. Both are probably publishers or Advertising big shots.

    To seriously think - and Believe!! - a billion dollar, international company would originate, plan and then execute a national job reduction program in the course of LESS-THAN 19 days is really Awe-inspiring ignorance.
    Most firms spend months determining departments that could be trimmed, through personal interviews and through quarterly financial analysis, develop alternative plans and set realistic goals going forward.

    it's called competent managing strategies. If, as the two Management Trolls above insist, these furlough and layoff actions all took place within 19 days, then it just accentuates what a bunch of management incompetents Dubow and his crew of Corporate Yes Men/Women are.

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  12. Jim's right. And, sadly, Group Presidents have quietly informed site publishers/GM to begin thinking through Q3 and Q4 reductions. The goal, of course, is to mask everything through the veil of "consolidations" and "operational efficiencies," which you will note have been given "asterisk" status when we discuss future layoff plans (as in, "except for operational efficiencies...").

    Someone asked about FLORIDA TODAY, which brought this to mind: Back in the day, in the days now we would consider to be the "good ole days," we would have good quarters and not-so-good quarters (oh, how I miss the days when we would get crap for not achieving our over-inflated budget numbers, but still did well YOY, but I digress). When we had bad quarters, we would tighten up, drag our feet on hiring, push back a few purchases and eventually figure out a way back to normal or near-normal. These days, we react by cutting long and hard, then we permanently reduce to that new configuration. I mean, really, if you still got the newspaper out today with two editors and 10 reporters, did you really ever need three editors and 12 reporters? Could you get by with one editor and eight reporters? Could you get by with no editors, six reporters and getting feedback/direction from someone in another city?

    That's what is happening to FLORIDA TODAY and many other papers. One bad quarter, we cut; another bad quarter, we cut more; another bad quarter, we go deeper. We never really intended to be where we are right now, but in making management and structure decisions in three-month intervals, all without regard to long-term implications, there we are. Whatever rebound we once had is now gone.

    When the publishers/GM gather now in conference calls at the Group level, it's gallows humor. And most of it is at the expense of the Information Center ("It's like I'm playing limbo with my editor, 'How low can you go?'"). C'mon, you gave us a 1 percent cut last quarter, what's another 2 percent beyond that?

    Deal Chicken to the rescue!

    No, seriously, folks: I don't know if "My Boss" is right, partially right or just a good guesser. I tend to think his/her numbers are a tad high. But I know there are many in the top offices of Crystal Palace who would like to reach his cut number. I will say this again: Gannett will survive. The question is: Do you want to be a part of the new company. If so, deaden your soul to what's coming.

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  13. 12:23 I have to laugh because it really did happen over two and a half weeks. My Boss is wrong on both counts. Payne just presented his plan and it grows the department. As far as USCP planning layoffs, that's just plain wrong. It's a lie to get you riled up. Not happening folks.

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  14. 1:42, that's what you said about the last round of furloughs. Sorry, but YOU were wrong.

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  15. Layoffs will likely come on a site-by-site basis, but probably not until right before Christmas or Thanksgiving, the perfect time to give people wonderful news. They'll be made less to help the fourth quarter, but to help going into next year. Revenue budgeting has already begun for next year, so the darts are getting warmed up.

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  16. She is such a liar. The reality is: No more layoffs until the next layoffs.

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  17. 4:11 There is a certain logic in that. I'll have to think a while about that to see if I can devise a logical way of stopping them.

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  18. I can't trust anything Madre Martore says regarding layoffs. If she wants to cut more, she needs to take a hard look throughout her own Crystal Palace tower.

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  19. "Craig, it was about 2% announced layoffs in U.S. Community Publishing."

    And how many were unannounced?

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  20. You all have reason to be skeptical but I'm telling you Payne is adding not subtracting people and there are mo plans for layoffs in the last half of the year. Nut if you want to believe so go ahead. I telling you folks there is a lot of good news finally coming our way. By the end of this week the digital folks will bare witness.

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  21. No not mo and but not nut. Damn iPhone !!!

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  22. 7:27, did you read the thread about the layoffs at Florida Today? Is this the good news your talking about?

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  23. Martore has the management style of a porcupine crossed with a badger. Vicious and prickly. Unable to see the folly of paying out $40 million for extra divends and up to $100 million for stock buybacks. Gannett is no longer a growth stock or a dividend play for widows and orphans. So what is the point? Stock still cant get much above $14. Who came up with this lame idea?

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  24. Bottom line is gannett properties have a running target list of those prioritized for termination. Based largely on age, salary and productivity. Talent? Knife weilders have no common sense over who actually adds value. Its insane. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar.

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  25. Hey deal chicken! Read this http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/18/amex-facebook-deals-go-social/

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  26. Jim and 8:20, I'm 7:24 AND I was there. If youre right, tell me why I'm now unemployed. The layoffs were not done all at once --they were on a rolling basis. Dont confuse a public announcement Nov. 3 with announcements at individual sites made BEFORE that. Regional groups handled things on different schedules. Dont forget some sites had No layoffs too. I'm no troll but I know my facts. I'm living them. Screw both of you.

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  27. 7:17 I'm sorry you lost your job. And I've never said all the layoffs were announced, nor that they all occurred on Nov. 3.

    Indeed, I documented layoffs before and after.

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  28. The writing level at this blog is even worse than ever. That is hard to believe.

    You suck, Jim, more than ever. Isn't it time for you to flip out and go back to your island?

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  29. Is there a person on the planet that believes anything these guys say anymore? Especially on a conference call with wall street? They'd sell their mothers if it meant a bigger bonus.

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  30. Rut roh!
    Something HUGE is about to go down!

    One can always tell when the attacks on Jim starts to escalate!

    I like your blog, Jim, and I like reading
    everything the bloggers have to offer - both the good and not so good comments!


    .....making sure I have enough Jiffy Pop Popcorn.....

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  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  32. I'm late to the party here - but the word I'm hearing is that everybody at a certain Florida property in Melbourne has to interview for their jobs. (This is APART from the impending Chatanooga shenanigans.)

    Cuts are OTW clearly.

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