Hearst Could Close or Sell S.F. Paper

NEW YORK The San Francisco Chronicle will be sold or closed unless major cost-cutting measures — including an unspecified “significant reduction in the number of unionized and non-union employees” — can be realized within weeks, parent company Hearst Corp. said Tuesday evening.

“If these savings cannot be accomplished within weeks … the company will be forced to sell or close the newspaper,” Hearst said in a statement. The company claims the Chronicle lost more than $50 million last year, “and that this year’s losses to date are worse.” The paper has had “major losses” each year since 2001, the company added.

“Because of the sea change newspapers everywhere are undergoing and these dire economic times, it is essential that our management and the local union leadership work together to implement the changes necessary to bring the cost of producing the Chronicle into line with available revenue,” said a joint prepared statement by Frank Bennack, Jr., vice chairman and chief executive officer of Hearst Corp. and Steven Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers.

Hearst said it cannot wait long to implement the cuts at the 144-year-old paper. “Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve,” the executives noted. “But without the specific changes we are seeking across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle or, should a buyer not be found, to shut the newspaper down.”

Several other big metro dailies are also up for sale, including the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and the San Diego Union-Tribune. As media companies have struggled through the rough economy, newspapers have fared worst of all.