Thursday, February 09, 2012

Bulletin: Newspaper buyouts said just announced; widespread early-retirement offers would be a first

[Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET with report confirming offer has been announced; new details on number affected, addition of site-by-site buyout tracking spreadsheet.]

A reader now says the offer has just been announced, and that it has been extended to "665 U.S. Community Publishing employees who are age 56 with at least 20 years of service, as of March 31, 2012, and who are in certain departments and/or job categories."

My earlier post: Corporate is expected to announce what would be the first nationwide buyout offer for potentially hundreds of employees early this afternoon, according to readers -- an early-retirement deal that would represent a major shift in the company's payroll reduction strategy.

Timing for these events is always subject to change, including delays or outright cancellation. But I now believe an announcement could come as soon as 1 p.m. ET.

But it would seem likely such an announcement would come after stock markets close at 4 p.m. ET, to give investors time to digest the news. Gannett's stock recently traded for $14.83 a share, down 31 cents, or 2%. That's still way up from a low of $10.30 three months ago.

Gannett Blog speculation for more than a month now has focused on buyouts being offered to employees in their mid-50s and older, likely with a minimum number years of service. I have been unable to confirm those details, however. I suspect the offer will be largely or exclusively for U.S. newspaper workers. There are about 20,000 of those, including all ages.

In a buyout, qualified employees -- usually older, with many years of service -- are asked to quit their jobs in return for enhanced severance benefits. Buyouts are typically offered with a threat of layoffs if an insufficient number of employees accept them.

These are among the details expected with this afternoon's notice, which could come in a memo from at least U.S. newspapers division President Bob Dickey.

Until now, GCI has never extended buyouts to such a broad group of employees simultaneously; in the past, they were offered on a site-by-site basis over different time periods. Any offers would be a dramatic change in GCI's payroll cost-cutting strategy, which since 2008 has focused almost exclusively on increasingly draconian mass layoffs, pay freezes and unpaid furloughs.

Last June, GCI laid off 700 U.S. newspaper workers. Since 2008 alone, the company has shed more than 10,000 jobs, or about 25% of all.

Like other newspaper publishers, GCI is struggling to find new sources of revenue as its mainstay business -- selling newspaper advertising -- remains on the decline. Last year, overall revenue fell 3.7%, to $5.2 billion, on a steeper 7.4% drop in print advertising, GCI reported last week. Earnings tumbled 20%, to $1.85 a share vs. $2.35.

Spreadsheet to track buyouts
Assuming Corporate makes an announcement, I'll count the number of buyouts on a site-by-site basis.

Please go to this spreadsheet and see if your site is represented. Then, in the comments section, below, post any new or updated information.

60 comments:

  1. Nice summary, Jim. Nice coverage all along. We'll see what the haters say when the announcement is made.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with 11:27 Jim, nice summary. I've heard from numerous people at my site that the buyouts will be this week (exact timing unknown) and that my site, a large publication in the southwest, is not included in the buyout program. Which is unfortunate because a number of people here are hoping for buyouts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There should be buyouts of all vps iat usa today.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amen, 11:38.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There should be buyouts for all top suits in Martore's tower.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've learned from a number of sources within Gannett that publishers are no longer making decisions autonomous to their sites. All business decisions are being pushed down from McLean.

    If that's the case, eliminate all of the site publishers, re-title the Finance Director's as General Managers and let the Executive Editors be the forward (customer) facing representatives of the newspaper. This would save GCI millions.

    But, alas ...

    ReplyDelete
  7. 12:42 - What you say about the publishers role is so true. They have become puppets to corporate. No wonder why the papers are going to hell.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Our publisher can't even find an executive editor. Our editor quit in July and she hasn't replaced him yet. Clarion-ledger -- saving Gannett thousands monthly, while losing readers daily.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Buyouts offered. Vindicated again, Jim.

    ReplyDelete
  10. cincinnati got the notice.

    ReplyDelete
  11. So did Appleton. Did anyone send you a copy yet, Jim, from any of the sites?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Letter has gone out, according to one reader.

    Offering is to "665 U.S. Community Publishing employees who are age 56 with at least 20 years of service, as of March 31, 2012, and who are in certain departments and/or job categories."

    ReplyDelete
  13. 22 Offered in Nashville

    ReplyDelete
  14. Letters are out

    ReplyDelete
  15. 21 in Cherry Hill.

    ReplyDelete
  16. 56 with 20 years, 2 weeks capt at 52 weeks..784 meet this bun only the 665 offers,

    Goes on to say Cant rule out other actions later.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Republic media got the notice.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Skunked again for starting here fresh out of college. Much more work experience, but not quite enough actual age to qualify.

    ReplyDelete
  19. 12 being offered in Jackson, Miss. between newsroom and finance.

    ReplyDelete
  20. 64 in Phoenix/Republic Media

    ReplyDelete
  21. CONFIDENTIAL

    TO: U.S.C.P. Employees
    FR: U.S. Community Publishing President Bob Dickey
    RE: Voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program

    Dear colleagues:

    Today we are offering a voluntary Early Retirement Opportunity Program to 665 eligible U.S. Community Publishing employees who are age 56 with at least 20 years of service, as of March 31, 2012, and who are in certain departments and/or job categories. Eligibility by department or job category varies by each operating unit depending on its needs.

    This offer was designed to be as attractive as or better than others in the industry. The Early Retirement Opportunity Program also is the first offered by Gannett since 2008. The offer provides for salary continuation of two weeks’ pay for each complete year of service, capped at 52 weeks, and ongoing health, dental and vision coverage during this period.

    Employees who are eligible will have 45 days to accept. At the close of the offer period, Gannett will review acceptances and make final decisions based on the terms of the offer.

    As mentioned – the program is completely voluntary for these valued, long-term employees. They have helped steer a strong and steady course for the company for many years, including through recent challenging economic times, and their work is deeply appreciated.

    It’s worth noting that while 785 employees meet the criteria, the offer is being offered to 665 employees due to ongoing operational needs at the company. The offer is for U.S. Community Publishing employees only.

    The Early Retirement Opportunity Program is one part of our ongoing strategy to transform the company with a focus on remaining the top news and information provider in your market. To accomplish this, it entails a ground-up assessment of our overall structure and resources. At this time we are offering this program instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future.

    Please look for a separate letter today from your publisher, who will provide more details about this program and your location.

    If you have any questions feel free to contact me or your publisher.

    Bob Dickey President/U.S. Community Publishing

    ReplyDelete
  22. 17 offered in Fort Myers. Accepting 11.

    ReplyDelete
  23. For what it's worth it's a decent package if you qualify. Only the VPs in 08 got this level of coverage.

    ReplyDelete
  24. offered at Asbury 49 accepting 47

    ReplyDelete
  25. Nashville has 25, Sorry..

    ReplyDelete
  26. 12 in Jackson miss

    ReplyDelete
  27. Because of the age requirement, I wonder if these buyouts are considered "early retirement." If so, will the "retirees" be eligible for retiree health insurance at the end of the 52 weeks? If so, beware: For a single person, the current cost is more than $600/month. I have no idea what it is for spouse/families.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Just 10 in Indianapolis. WTF?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keep paying that union dues!!!

      Delete
  29. Damn good question @2:19 as if it doesn’t provide entry into Gannett’s retiree program from their final separation date forward, then this is really nothing more than an employee buyout package, not an “Early Retirement Opportunity” as it’s now being sold.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Correction for Phoenix.
    70 qualify and 64 accepted. Please update the spreadsheet.

    ReplyDelete
  31. 10 employees in Shreveport will be offered the buyout (IT, accounting, information center, advertising, but no breakdown of how many in each dept.)

    ReplyDelete
  32. 42 offered, accepting 20 in Louisville.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Folks EROP is a government term. Gannett didn;t make it up.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Wow. People accepting the same DAY as offered? What do you make of that?

    ReplyDelete
  35. 3:37 No. I believe this is the correct explanation:

    "Accepting" means that's the maximum number of buyouts the site will accept. The larger figure is the number of people qualified -- the pool from which buyouts would be drawn.

    So, in the case of Louisville, 42 qualified, but only 20 will be eventually be granted buyouts.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I don't get offering more than will be accepted...What's the point of that and why put people's lives on hold for 45 days over such an important decision...That's 45 days that someone who wants to accept and begin to make plans has to sit in some crazy limbo...If you're only going to accept 20, then offer 20, and keep a list of other eligible if any of the first 20 don't accept.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 45 days is Federal law

      Delete
  37. 13 offered at Florida Today. Yowzah! Guess all the new changes fell flat after all. And since there is no publisher, who makes he final call? Is it Bob Stover the Editor? Doesn't he fall into the buyout category himself?

    ReplyDelete
  38. I've heard some TV stations are included in Community Publishing with offers made to eligible employees. Does anyone know if that is correct or not?

    ReplyDelete
  39. 23 eligible in Greenville for 17 slots

    ReplyDelete
  40. Lafayette, LA 8 offered, 5 accepted

    ReplyDelete
  41. Has any of this affected GPS? Perhaps they will have their own list of buyouts?

    ReplyDelete
  42. Any chance the deal might be negotiable? Can I get paid for unused vacation/sick leave instead of the health care benefits, which I don't need?

    ReplyDelete
  43. 3 months too young! Damn it!

    ReplyDelete
  44. I still believe, come spring, layoffs will follow, and age/years of service won't matter then.

    ReplyDelete
  45. 26 eligible and 26 offered in cincy between news online and advertising

    ReplyDelete
  46. Jim, just my two cents worth. You have a number of positions that you call "eligible" at my site. I am eligible, but I was not offered a buyout. All in all, 785 were eligible, but only 665 were offered. I am one of the 120 eligible employees who were not offered a buyout.

    At our site, employees were chosen by department. Some departments were not affected at all, including mine. I was called into a private meeting after the announcements and told that our department was not included in the buyout because we're already bare-bones and can't afford to lose even one person.

    Take from that what you will but I'll choose to hang onto the hope that I'll be employed here at least through this year. And if/when they decide to finally let me go, it will be with a buyout offer similar to what I am seeing out there today.

    ReplyDelete
  47. 9:24 and 9:17 are both correct - Cincy's 26 did not include eligible employees from departments outside of news, advertising and online.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Westchester 26/21

    ReplyDelete
  49. it does provide retiree benefits an $600 a month sounds excessive for single person, unless it is a real cadillac plan, which i don't think gannett has. at my site, employee plus one, costs employee and gannett a total of just under $800 a month, and it is my understanding, retirees have to pay the whole thing. can any other retirees weigh in on this.

    ReplyDelete
  50. The 8 offered in Lafayette, LA, include 5 in news (photogs, sports, capital bureau) and 3 in advertising. 5 will be accepted.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Six in Alexandria from advertising, info center and IT.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Poughkeepsie has 7 offered and 3 to be accepted.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Can anyone tell me if in Nashville the IT/Tech Serv Department in included and if so How Many? I do hope that someone special Takes it and leaves..

    ReplyDelete
  54. 4 offered in NE Wis (2 advert/1 editorial/1 admin)for 3 papers in Door,Kewaunee,Oconto counties (too far removed from Appleton to know what is happening there)

    ReplyDelete
  55. The spreadsheet has interesting info. While you have a ways to go to get to the 665 offers, does it appear the numbers are proportional to the size of the properties? Were some sites exempted? Do sites of similar size reflect similar numbers or do some sites just have more long-time/older employees?

    Hope others will fill in the numbers over the weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Jim, Could you bump the spreadsheet and opportunity to comment higher on the page?

    ReplyDelete
  57. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  58. The Clarion ledger is this worst product I have ever seen, carriers are asked to do things that arent in the contract and its just a matter of time before a law suit gets filed. Gannett/Clarion Ledger cant make payroll and the customers have to pay more now for the paper because of the lack of leadership that didnt have enough sense to run the company in the first place.

    ReplyDelete

Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.