What will become of The Record?

Morris Publishing Group, LLC announced this week that it hired Lazard Freres & Co. LLC as its financial advisor and Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, LLP as legal counsel.

The Jacksonville Business Journal is reporting that Morris Publishing Group LLC, the parent company of the Florida Times-Union and St. Augustine Record, has hired a financial adviser that specializes in helping newspaper chains in or near bankruptcy.

Lazard Freres also works for the Tribune Co. which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December. Bankruptcy, reorganization and creditors’ rights are among the specialties listed on the Gerber & Eisenberg LLP web site.

William S. Morris III, Chairman of Morris Publishing, stated, “These firms will assist us in evaluating our strategic options regarding Morris Publishing’s existing capital structure.”

Morris Publishing has struggled with declining advertising revenue for several years, resulting in layoffs and other cost-saving measures.

Morris Publishing amended its credit agreements with lenders and JP Morgan Chase & Co. for the third time in October, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

One of several conditions to the amendment is that Morris Publishing proves it has sufficient funds to pay its debts through March 31st. This could include selling company assets to meet the loan agreements.

The company lost $163.2 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with income of nearly $5 million in the same period in 2007, according to its latest earnings report with the SEC.

The Poynter Institute Media Business Analyst Rick Edmonds said Morris Publishing is among the growing number of newspaper chains that are struggling with debt.

According to analysts, Morris Publishing held down expenses to optimize profits during good economic conditions, which makes it even more difficult now that the company has had to cut costs and staff.

Morris Publishing Group, LLC, an affiliate of Morris Communications Company, LLC, is a privately held media company based in Augusta, Ga. Morris Publishing currently owns and operates 13 daily newspapers as well as nondaily newspapers, city magazines and free community publications in the Southeast, Midwest, Southwest and Alaska.


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