Morris takes Florida Publishing into bankruptcy

On January 1, 1983, Morris Communications of Augusta, Georgia, purchased Florida Publishing Company from Seaboard Coast Line Railroad; including the St. Augustine Record, the morning Florida Times-Union, the afternoon Jacksonville Journal and the weekly Courier Journal in Crescent City.

After 27 years, on January 19, 2010, Florida Publishing Company succumbs to bankruptcy under the ownership of Morris Publishing Group, LLC. — a confirmation hearing is set for February 17th. Morris Publishing Group was formed in 2001 and assumed the operations of the newspaper business segment of Morris Communications Company, its former parent.

The Record was founded by Charles F. Hopkins Jr. as The Daily Herald on October 21, 1894, but known as The Evening Record after its merger with The St. Augustine Evening News and The Morning Journal. All the local papers were bought out by Pierre D. Thompson’s grandfather, D. E. Thompson, with investment by the Flagler System.

Sometime in 1936, without fanfare, The Evening Record became known as The St. Augustine Record, and, in 1942, the Flagler System sold the newspaper to A.H. Tebault, Sr., and a group of local investors. By 1957, Tebault was the sole owner. Three years after Tebault’s death, which occurred in 1963, his widow and son sold the newspaper to Florida Publishing Company.

The first edition of The Florida Times-Union came out on Sunday, February 4, 1883, but, the newspaper traces its history back to 1864 when an olive grower named J.K. Stickney teamed with W.C. Morrill to start the Florida Union.

As of yesterday, the Morris newspapers had about 1,847 full-time employees and 335 part-time employees, according to a filing in bankruptcy court.

The debtors are continuing in possession of their respective properties and are continuing to operate and maintain their business as debtors in possession.

The following 15 affiliated entities filed petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Georgia:

1. Morris Publishing Group, LLC
2. Athens Newspapers, LLC
3. Broadcaster Press, Inc.
4. Florida Publishing Company
5. Homer News, LLC
6. Log Cabin Democrat, LLC
7. Morris Publishing Finance Company
8. MPG Allegan Property, LLC
9. MPG Holland Property, LLC
10. Southeastern Newspapers Company, LLC
11. Southwestern Newspapers Company, L.P.
12. Stauffer Communications, Inc.
13. The Oak Ridger, LLC
14. The Sun Times, LLC
15. Yankton Printing Company

The following 157 publications owned by the affiliated entities and names used by the debtor in the last eight years are:

Albion Shopper
Allegan Flashes Shopping Guide
Ardmore Daily Ardmoreite
Arkansas City Travelers
Arlington Sun
Auburndale Shopper
Bartow Shopper
Blue Springs Examiner
Blue Springs Examiner, LLC, a Missouri LLC
Bluffton Today
Boat Broker
Brainerd Dispatch
Broadcast Direct Marketing
Bryan County Now
Bulleyes Marketing
Capital City Weekly
Car Paper
Career Paper
Central Florida Manufactured Home
Cimarrone Living (Florida Times)
CJExtra (Topeka)
Clay County Line
Clay Sun
Coastal Bride
Coastal Castles
Coastal Cruising
Coastal Senior
Columbus Area Choice
County Lines
Destination Media
Discover Jacksonville
Dispatch News
Dodge City Daily Globe
Echo Publishing and Printing
Echoland Metro
Echoland/Piper Shopper
Eco Latino
Effingham Now
Employment Now
Events Magazine
First Coast Home Finder
Flashes Coronet Advertising
Flashes Publishers
Flashes Quad-Cities Shopper
Flashes Shopping Guide
Glenwood Post
Grand Island Independent
H Magazine: The Pulse of Today’s Health
Hamilton Herald
Hannibal Courier-Post
Heartland Delivery
Heartland Shopper
Her Voice (Grand Island)
Her Voice (Winter Haven)
Hers Kansas
HerVoice (Brainerd)
Hillsdale Daily News
Holland Flashes
Holland Sentinel
Inside the Gate (Florida Times)
JAX AirNews
Jaxpack Direct
Kalamazoo Express
Kalamazoo Flashes
Kings Bay Periscope
La Estrella
Lake Country Echo
Lake Country Echo
Lake Shore Flashes
Lake Wales Shopper
Lakeland Homefinder
Lakeland Shopper
Mandarin Sun
Mayport Mirror
Mid Nebraska Connection
Midwest Postal
Missouri Valley Shopper
Morris Digital Library
Nassau Neighbor
Nassau Sun
Neighbor’s Weekend (Brainerd)
Norfolk Area Shopper
North Hampton Living
Northside Sun
Northwest St. Johns
Oak Grove Shopper
Oak Grove Shopper, LLC, a Missouri LLC
Off The Record
Okatie Sun
Palm Coast Neighborhood
Pine River Journal
Piper Shopper
Pittsburg Morning Sun
Prairie Shopper
Prairie Shopper Plus
Quest for the Presidency
Redlands Marketing
Ridge Shopper
Salt River Journal
Senior Times
Shawnee News-Star
She’s OK!
Shoppers Advantage
Shoppers Weekly
Shorelines Sun
Skirt! Magazine
Smart Target
Sourdough Sentinel
South Hampton Living
Southside Sun
St. Augustine Best Read Where Quick Guide
St. Johns Connection
St. Johns Sun
Stonehurst Plantation Living (Florida Times)
Summit Morning News
Sylvania Telephone
The Citizen News
The Examiner of Independence
The Examiner of Independence, LLC, a Missouri LLC
The Extra
The Florida Times-Union
The Georgia Times-Union
The Girard Press
The Hampton County Guardian
The Jasper Shopper
The Jefferson Reporter
The McDuffie Mirror
The News and Farmer and Wadley Herald
The Newton Kansan
The Newton Kansan, LLC, a Kansas LLC
The People-Sentinel
The Polk Shopper
The St. Augustine Record
The Sunland Shopper
Tip Off Shopping Guide
Topeka Capital-Journal
Town & Country Extra
Trade and Transaction
Trade West
Visitor’s Guide – City of Jacksonville
Visitor’s Guide – St. Augustine
Visitor’s Guide – St. Johns County
Waters Edge
West Michigan Senior Times
Westside Sun
Winter Haven News Chief
Winter Haven Shopper
York News-Times
Zeeland Flashes
Zeeland Sentinel

Not surprisingly, The Record is attempting to minimize the fallout from their financial bankruptcy — including an expected, self-written press release through the PR Newswire Association.

That press release contains a lot of forward-looking statements based on their own expectations and assumptions concerning events which may happen in the future. In their own words, “Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements contained in this press release.”

Trying to wrangle nearly $300 million in debt and reduce it to something like $100 million by forcing creditors to take less than they are lawfully owed, is hopeful — but hardly guaranteed, even in Bankruptcy Court. The statements are not guarantees of any events or financial results, and actual results may differ materially.

The creditor’s are called to action, as well. Like Morris, they have hired expert legal counsel to represent their interest in the $300 million dollars, now up-for-grabs.

Some important factors that could cause the newspaper’s actual results to be materially different from their expectations include, among others, “the Company may need to seek protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code, and the risk that the Company will be otherwise unsuccessful in its efforts to effectuate a comprehensive restructuring of its business.”

Photo credit: Historic City News photographer Kerry McGuire