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For the second time in six years, the parent of of the Orange County Register newspaper has filed for bankruptcy. The paper announced that it filed today (Sunday, November 1).

Rich Mirman, the Register's chief executive officer and publisher, and a veteran casino executive, says that if he gets permission of the bankruptcy court, he will take over the paper, along with local investors.

This is the ignominious end of an attempt to fatten up — instead of trim down — the paper. It was attempted by Aaron Kushner in 2012. He shocked the ailing newspaper industry by hiring reporters, adding sections, buying the Riverside Press-Enterprise, and launching the Los Angeles Register. That publication lasted five months. Soon, the Orange County Register reversed course and made moves that other papers are making: layoffs, buyouts, and staff furloughs. Kushner is now out of the company. After he and another investor bought it in 2012, they sold a handful of smaller newspapers in the stable to concentrate on the Register.

Mirman concedes that the bankruptcy court (for the Central District of California) could select a higher bidder. Rumors have made the circuit for some time that Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and San Diego Union-Tribune, along with other dailies, would be interested in the Orange County paper. It would be a natural strategic fit. However, Tribune Publishing has its own problems. The Los Angeles unit, which includes the Times and U-T, is publicly feuding with the Chicago headquarters — something that is rare in business.

Also, investors are not enamored of Tribune Publishing's management and the future of the newspaper industry. In the most recent quarter, earnings per share plunged to 13 cents from 60 cents a year earlier. The stock closed at $9.44 Friday, down 3.67 percent. In the last year, it has been as high as $23.73.

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Comments

Visduh Nov. 2, 2015 @ 8:29 a.m.

Like most of the news chains, Freedom was worth $ billions a few years ago, and now is worth essentially nothing. The Hoile family that owned Freedom, as I recall, got into a feud after the passing of the patriarch, with some members wanting to liquidate and others preferring to keep the chain intact. (It owned many small papers around the country, and I specifically remember the one in Marysville/Yuba City, and I think the Salinas paper, too.) Don, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Freedom saddle itself with a huge dept load to pay off the dissident family members?

That's all history now, but at least for a time the Register tried to reverse the downward spiral. If any other paper wants to try such a move, it would do so at its peril. The Register tried and it flopped. The subscribers didn't come back.

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Don Bauder Nov. 2, 2015 @ 10:06 a.m.

Visduh: Yes, the original family squabbled constantly. This cost the company money and was one reason among many for the excessive debt that piled up. The squabbling went on even before the patriarch died. Back in the early 19th century, when the company only owned papers in Ohio, there was squabbling.

When Kushner and his compatriot bought the paper in 2012, he shocked the industry by attempting to bolster the editorial product. Old pros noted that Kushner really didn't know the business. Kushner scoffed. The old pros were right. The money Kushner spent on buying the Riverside paper, launching an ill-fated L.A. edition, hiring reporters, and adding sections was wasted. He is now out of the company. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD Nov. 3, 2015 @ 7:47 a.m.

Don — This is what happens when the public has been put asleep by the Propaganda Machine now known as Main Stream Media (MSM or better yet M$M).

With nothing of real importance being discussed in most newspapers (or on TV), it is no wonder that very few if any continue to subscribe to what is now little more than promotional infomercials, tabloids and/or sports sheets.

Media Consolidation is just another phrase for squelching public opinions that is not encouraged by the "Owners" since they now have either eliminated or restricted the submitted comments that are allowed to be seen by other members of the public.

What we need is an Angel to buy the OC Register and then work with the SD Reader to provide realistic News and Commentary about what is happening in SoCal. Imagine if they started to really cover the Sacramento Sell Out by most of our elected Leaders that (like M$M) are now working hard to please their Big $pecial interest donors. Secretly, I think many would welcome such a thing because it would force the other M$M to try and counter what the OCR/SDR were doing. Besides, what a joy it would be to read Pro & Con side by side articles discussing both sides of important issues of the day, each and every day; instead of just more VoSD/UT one-sided "plastic journalism" that is written to put the masses to sleep after spreading their Big Donor messages.

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Don Bauder Nov. 3, 2015 @ 10:17 a.m.

eastlaker: See my response to CaptD. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Nov. 3, 2015 @ 10:16 a.m.

CaptD: Media consolidation is, first, an economic phenomenon. The newspaper business -- particularly metro dailies -- is in deep trouble and appears to be dying. So mergers in most cases effectuate savings; massive layoffs always ensue after a merger because there are (as expected) duplicative positions.

A second objective of the media consolidation wave is, as you say, to squelch minority public opinions. When two papers merge, the surviving paper almost always becomes even more of a lapdog to the local business establishment. This is based on economics, too. The big advertisers are almost always part of the business establishment. Best, Don Bauder

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Matt101 Nov. 3, 2015 @ 11:38 p.m.

Did anyone other than Kushner think he would be successful by spending heavily in the way that dailies did when they had much higher local ad revenue?

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Don Bauder Nov. 4, 2015 @ 6:26 a.m.

Matt101: I presume that Kushner's partner agreed with him. But the overwhelming sentiment among those in the industry and those commenting on it was that Kushner would be proved wrong. He was -- even faster than the skeptics predicted. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Nov. 4, 2015 @ 4:01 p.m.

TRIBUNE PUBLISHING INDICATES IT IS INTERESTED IN BIDDING FOR ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. According to the Los Angeles Times, Tribune Publishing does have an interest in acquiring Freedom Communications, the parent of the Orange County Register, which filed for bankruptcy Sunday. A Tribune Publishing lawyer showed up in court this morning (November 4) and called for an "open sale process." As outlined in the blog item above, Rich Mirman, veteran casino executive who has run the Register for a year, hopes to be able to buy the paper out of bankruptcy, with help from local investors, but is aware that Tribune Publishing may also be interested in being a bidder.

A bearded, motorcycle-riding entrepreneur named Mike Hannah is expected to team up with Mirman in the bid for the Register. Harrah is a controversial fellow. The Orange County Weekly said on November 2 that Harrah would be "the WORST owner the OC Register can possibly have." Said the OC Weekly, "Harrah is an aggrandizing, thin-skinned multimillionaire far too obsessed with erecting a monument to himself to be trusted with ANYTHING."

Tribune Publishing stock continues to sink. Today it dropped 8.59 percent to $9.05. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD Nov. 12, 2015 @ 7:42 a.m.

I'm very surprised that the Koch Bro.'s don't start acquiring all the Newspapers/MSM they can to better control what is said about them and their Plans For US.

SoCal is no for ever more LA-ism as we get slammed with more Density, Traffic and Blight all in the name of Big Dev. Profits, which they will spend elsewhere on their next Mega Project.

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