Tribune Publishing Approves Buyouts for 7 Percent of Its Employees

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Tribune Publishing has approved buyouts for approximately 7 percent of its eligible 7,000 employees across its media portfolio, according to a Thursday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC filing did not include the specific number of buyouts at each newspaper or the job functions. The Chicago-based company owns 11 major newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, which it acquired in May for $85 million.

The separation plan, which will be funded through salary continuation extending through the first half of 2018, will result in a total charge of approximately $55 million for all related severance, benefits and taxes, the company said. Tribune Publishing will record a charge estimated at $47 million during the fourth quarter related to the buyouts.

The last day of work for most employees in the voluntary separation plan will be Nov. 25.

A major cost-cutting move in the face of continuing revenue declines for the newspaper industry, Tribune Publishing offered the buyouts in October across its media portfolio. The buyouts give employees one week of base pay for every year of employment up to 10 years, two weeks for 11 to 20 years and three weeks for years 21 and up, with a cap at a year’s pay.

During an earnings conference call last week, Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Griffin said the buyout plan achieved its internal targets.

The employee separation plan comes during a tumultuous time for Tribune Publishing, which has seen its stock price plunge in the wake of a controversial leadership change at the Los Angeles Times and lowered financial guidance.

Last week, Tribune Publishing posted a third-quarter loss of $3.4 million, or 13 cents a share, on flat revenue. The reported loss did not include a $7.13 million jury award to a former Los Angeles Times sports columnist in an employment lawsuit over age discrimination. The filing Thursday shows a third-quarter loss of $8.6 million, or 33 cents per share, updated to reflect the unfavorable award, which the company plans to appeal.

Tribune Publishing spun off from Tribune Media, which retained higher-margin broadcasting assets and real-estate holdings, in August 2014.