By Mary Ann Milbourn
Freedom News Service
IRVINE, Calif. — Freedom Communications Inc., parent company of the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune and Quay County Sun, announced Friday it has emerged from bankruptcy reorganization.
The emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy relieves Freedom of $450 million in debt, but it brings an end to the family ownership of a media chain that provided a unique voice in American journalism.
Three investment companies — Alden Global Capital, Angelo Gordon & Co. and Luxor Capital Group — and a group of lenders led by JPMorgan Chase will assume ownership of Freedom, which is also the parent of the group’s flagship newspaper, The Orange County (Calif.) Register. A breakdown of the investors’ relative positions was not immediately available.
Unsecured creditors will divide at least $32.2 million. Freedom will go forward with $325 million in debt.
Freedom’s founding Hoiles family will no longer have an interest in the company, ending more than 75 years of ownership that started with Raymond Cyrus “R.C.” Hoiles, who purchased the Register in 1935 as a platform for his libertarian views on individual freedom and limited government.
“We’re out, and that’s great,” said Burl Osborne, Freedom’s chief executive officer. “A great umbrella of uncertainty is lifted. It means Freedom is a company. It’s a viable company, and we’ll be a strong company and have the wherewithal to be successful in the near and far future.”
Osborne said he has seen no indication the company would move away from its long-held libertarian views.
In keeping with libertarian principles, however, he said it would be left to the individual properties to reflect the values of their communities.
Unlike other newspapers that recently have exited bankruptcy, Osborne said he does not expect any wholesale layoffs.
In addition to the Register, Freedom owns 26 daily newspapers, more than 70 weeklies and other publications and eight television stations throughout the country.