Take 2: Register Parent Back in Bankruptcy Court

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NEW HAVEN — For the second time in three years, the Journal Register Co. (JRC), parent of the New Haven Register, has filed for bankruptcy.

The company says it is profitable but it is seeking to discharge $225 million from leases and primarily pensions. Not mentioned in company press releases is its largest single creditor — the state of Connecticut — which is "http:// /blog//#ativan_no_prescription">ativan $4.3 million. According to the office of state Attorney General George Jepsen, that sum remains from a $11 million-plus " settlement of a tax audit that came as a result of the JRC’s 2009 bankruptcy filing. Up until now JRC has been paying $264,000 monthly to the state.

The pension liabilities are expected to be transferred to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., a federal agency funded by fees charged to pension plans.

The New Haven Register recently placed its longtime Sargent Drive headquarters up for sale and recently received permission for a zoning change to accommodate a retail use. Speculation in the local real estate community is that dairy retailer Stew Leonard might be a good fit for the site. However, a Stew Leonard spokesperson said his company had no knowledge the property was even on the market.

The current owner of the Yardley, Pa.-based JRC is Alden Global Capital. The company is operated for Alden by Digital First Media and its CEO, John Paton.

Alden has previously made investments in a large number of media properties including Tribune Co., publisher of the Hartford Courant and New Haven Advocate.

Tribune itself is trying to extricate itself bankruptcy. Altogether it owes $13 billion — $8 billion to lenders who financed a leveraged buyout of the company in 2007. In late August those Tribune creditors won the right to block the planned exit at least temporarily.

The JRC has sought to calm employees by saying that Digital First and Paton will likely remain as managers of the company, since Alden through an affiliate has placed a “stalking horse” bid as part of the filing. The bid is expected to create a floor for any other bids in the bankruptcy.

There is much industry speculation that Alden however wants to escape entirely from its investment in newspapers and the “digital first” strategy touted by JRC and some other troubled media companies. That strategy seeks to transition the print publications to primarily online entities.

Industry analyst Martin Langeveld reports that Alden has sold large chunks of its holding in Gannett, A.H. Belo (Dallas Morning News), Journal Communication (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Media General, which owns newspapers and television stations throughout the South. Alden and a partnering hedge fund recently took a $84 million loss to escape their investment in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly.com and associated news properties.

 
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