Union-Tribune numbers in Securities and Exchange Commission report
The San Diego Union-Tribune's pension/retirement deficit rose to $96.2 million at year-end 2015, according to the parent Tribune Publishing's 10-K annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The deficit was $85.4 million in May of 2015, when Tribune Publishing bought the U-T.
Tribune Publishing (which is changing its name to "tronc" — with a lower case t — later this month) lists the pension deficit among risk factors that potential investors should consider before buying the stock.
The deficits of other Tribune Publishing newspapers are not listed as risk factors in the document.
The numbers are alarming. As of yearend 2015, the amount the company owes over time to employees and former employees is $235.6 million. But the value of the pension plan's assets is just $139.4 million. Tribune Publishing contributed only $3 million to the fund last year, according to the filing.
The return on the plan's assets was minus $10.2 million last year.The company paid out $9.9 million in benefits, according to the document filed with the securities agency.
I have learned from a knowledgeable source that the Union-Tribune had a pension-plan deficit when it was bought by Platinum Equity in 2009. But my source does not remember what that deficit was.
When Tribune Publishing bought the U-T, I asked a Chicago spokesman to identify which ownership (Copley, Platinum Equity, Douglas Manchester) had run up the pension deficit the most. He would not reveal that information.