Reporter May Have Hastened Freedom Communications Bankruptcy Announcement

Saturday, OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano started asking questions. Sunday, Freedom answered.

These are dark Daily Print Newspaper Saving days in Southern California.

On Friday, Poynter chief media correspondent James Warren reported that 15 percent of Los Angeles Times newsroom employees have applied for the latest round of buyouts, a process with a deadline of Oct. 23. Today, Freedom Communications Inc., the parent company of the Orange County Register, The Press-Enterprise and other regional California newspapers and magazines, has announced it has filed for bankruptcy.

All the details are in the press release and accompanying note by Freedom CEO Rich Mirman, including assurances that the filing will have “minimal impact” on the Register’s day-to-day operations and the promise that Freedom will be profitable in 2015. What’s not included is the reason this news may have been released as the clocks were falling back. For that, we turn to Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly editor and perennial thorn in the side of Aaron Kushner, Eric Spitz et al:

Who declares bankruptcy at midnight on a Sunday, after a reporter starts asking questions? The Orange County Register, of course!

Yesterday, multiple, trustworthy sources who requested anonymity told me the Register’s parent company planned to file bankruptcy sometime this week, if not sooner. I sent out an email for comment to Register publisher Rich Mirman and one of their attorneys, which weren’t returned by press time.

Then at 1 a.m. last night, a source sent me a press release officially confirming the story, along with another thing I was hearing: that notorious landlord Mike Harrah – the man who bought the Register’s offices and land last year, and has been trying to build a 37-story office tower in Santa Ana for over a decade – was going to put in a bid with Mirman to take over the Register.

Arellano also has details of a large judgment ($642,220.92) won against the Register this past Thursday in federal court by Fisher Printing, which had sued the paper over unpaid 2014-15 fees. As well as some interesting background on the attorney who represented the Register in that case.

The weekend timing of the Freedom bankruptcy filing could also have been triggered by the fact that today is the first calendar day of November.