JRC reaches deal to sell R.I. dailies and weeklies

Journal Register Co. selling its nine Rhode Island publications had nothing to do with the $700 million debt the company has incurred over the years, said Ricardo Venegas, a JRC spokesperson.
“We will use the proceeds to lower the debt,” he said. “But that was not a driver.”
The Pennsylvania-based company on Jan. 26 announced the sale of its three daily newspapers – The Call in Woonsocket; The Times in Pawtucket; and The Kent County Daily Times in West Warwick – and its weekly Southern Rhode Island Newspaper Group.
As of Jan. 31 the $7.6 million sale had not closed.
The purchaser is a company called RISN Operations Inc.
Venegas said JRC had made its decision to sell after reviewing all of its properties last year.
In August, company Chairman and CEO Robert M. Jelenic said that JRC was considering selling its New England properties to focus on operations that “generate a higher return on capital and produce a higher level of profitability.” The Rhode Island and the Massachusetts newspapers generated about $40 million in revenue for the year ending June 2006, according to JRC’s Web site.
In December, JRC sold two Massachusetts-based community newspapers – The Herald News in Fall River and the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton – to Gatehouse Media for $70 million in cash and $2 million in estimated working capital.
Union leaders at the Rhode Island JRC newspapers aren’t sure what to think.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Doug Hadden, president of the Pawtucket Newspaper Guild, for employees at The Times. “We have not been told definitively who is buying us.”
Little is known about RISN Operations, except that it was incorporated in Delaware and one of its corporate officers is Roland McBride, chief financial officer of Marion, Ill.-based Horizon Publications Inc.
McBride could not be reached for comment.
“We hope they would come in here and make the needed investments,”
Hadden said. The paper could use an updated computer system, he said.
And it has at least three vacancies, some of which have been open for more than six months.
Hadden said the union is glad JRC sold the Rhode Island papers together, instead of selling them separately, because “it gives them more clout with the advertisers and the investors.”
But the union is worried about its collective bargaining agreement, which expires in May, especially given that at The Call, the Woonsocket Newspaper Guild has been working with an expired contract for three years, Hadden said.
Larry O’Brien, president of the Woonsocket Newspaper Guild for The Call, said he cannot comment until he hears more from JRC or the buyer. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen yet,” he said.

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