CJ owner Gannett chopping 2% of its workforce

It’s unclear whether those job cuts will come across all Gannett’s newspapers, including The Courier-Journal, or whether some will take bigger hits than others. The employment reduction, announced this morning in all all-points memo from the corporate office, comes amid forecasts that the company’s ad revenue plunged more than 12% in the third quarter, just ended; the actual results will be released Thursday.

Gannett doesn’t break out employment by subsidiary, so it’s unclear how many people work at the CJ. Company-wide, Gannett employs about 18,700; a 2% cut would be equal to about 375 jobs.

Here’s the memo from Gannett CEO Bob Dickey:

Dear colleagues,

I’m writing to share with you some critical moves we are making this week and offer some context about how they are important for our company. We have made strides in building a strong and unified culture. Honesty and transparency are cornerstones of that culture, and I am committed to both.

Over the past 16 months, we have worked hard to execute our strategy with purposeful moves:

  • expanding our footprint with the acquisitions of Journal Media Group and North Jersey Media Group.
  • creating high quality journalism, while building one nationwide news organization with the launch of the USA TODAY NETWORK.
  • leading with digital with the acquisition of ReachLocal, a best-in-class digital marketing services company, to name just a few major achievements.

These moves are central to our transformation into a leading, next-generation media company. The positive impact of these efforts will take time, which in the near-term requires us to assertively manage our costs. What’s required is not easy and I do not take it lightly.

We made the decision to reduce about 2% of our workforce across the organization, including at headquarters. We will communicate with the majority of those affected by the end of the day on Oct. 25, with actions completed by the end of the week.

We will all feel the loss of great colleagues. Each and every one of you has my deep gratitude for your many contributions to the success of our company. Actions like these are difficult, but I remain steadfastly committed to reinvesting in our employees and the capabilities required to sustain and grow our company so that we may continue to serve our customers with excellence.

Over the next 18 months, we will continue to build our scale and invest in important digital capabilities and experiences – such as critical e-commerce infrastructure and significant upgrades to our digital content platforms. I appreciate your continued commitment to the company and the future we are building together.

Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts, questions and ideas with me. I have created an email box specifically for your feedback at AskBob@Gannett.com.

Bob Dickey
President and CEO

Schnatter dumps $7M more in Papa shares, including single-biggest trade since start of selling spree last month

John Schnatter
Schnatter

Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter has sold another big chunk of stock, according to a regulatory filing this afternoon, bringing to 411,050 shares the total he’s sold since announcing a special trading plan in early September under which he could sell up to 480,000 total.

Combined proceeds so far from all the sales, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings: $32.2 million. (Table shows all the trades.)

Today’s SEC filing says Schnatter, who founded the company in 1984, sold 86,314 shares yesterday and Wednesday for prices averaging from $80.07 to $81.02 a share. The proceeds were $6.9 million, most of it from a single sale of 63,318 on Wednesday — the largest such block since Boulevard began tracking a wave of sales he started under the trading plan.

Papa John’s stock closed at $80.45 this afternoon, up 47 cents.

Company executives often adopt “10b5-1” trading plans, named for the SEC rule that governs insider trading. They are often approved by a company’s board of directors, and require an executive to sell a certain number of shares at fixed intervals to avoid any appearance they’re trading on inside information.

Storm clouds gather over CJ owner Gannett Co.

Newspapers are suffering an accelerating drop in print advertising, a market that already was under stress, forcing some publishers to consider significant cost cuts and dramatic changes to their print and digital products, according to a new Wall Street Journal story with implications for The Courier-Journal and the broader Louisville media scene.

cj-october-21
Today’s Page One.

Jefferies stock analyst John Janedis has forecast an even more difficult calendar third quarter. Last month he lowered his estimates for Gannett Co., forecasting a 12.5% drop in combined print and digital ad revenues.

We’ll see how accurate he is when Gannett reports third-quarter results next Thursday morning.

Wall Street is worried. Gannett’s stock traded at a new 52-week low this morning, $10.16, before easing back into the black.

The figures will come after a recent management shake-up at the CJ, where top editor Neil Budde quit unexpectedly last week. Published reports said management believed too much emphasis had been placed on digital vs. the print version. That’s hard to fathom, however, when newspapers face more and more competition from online upstarts such as Insider Louisville.

GE workers in strike authorization vote; after Hurricane Matthew, it was Papa John’s to the rescue; and Jack Daniel’s general store hits the road

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 7:59 a.m.

GE APPLIANCES workers were to vote yesterday to authorize a strike as contract talks grew more contentious. The move comes about two months after GE Appliances began negotiating a new labor contract with IUE-CWA Local 83761, which represents about 4,000 rank-and-file workers at Louisville’s Appliance Park (WDRB).

PAPA JOHN’S: A man in Omaha, Neb., worried because he couldn’t reach his grandmother in Florida after Hurricane Matthew, turned to Papa John’s to find out whether she was OK. Eric Olsen said his grandmother Claire Olsen’s phone wasn’t working, and cops in Palm Coast, Fla., were “overwhelmed” when he asked them to check on her. Who else could he call in a city where he didn’t know anyone? Papa John’s. He ordered a pizza to be delivered to her house with instructions for the driver to call him on arrival. Some 30 minutes later, the pizza was there he knew she was OK. Delivery driver Lance Tyler described Claire’s expression as “just priceless.” (For her part, Claire told WFTV the pepperoni pizza was “fantastic”) (Fox News).

jack-daniels-150th-anniversary-whiskeyBROWN-FORMAN has opened the second of three elaborate pop-up Jack Daniel’s-themed “general stores”as part of the company’s ongoing 150th anniversary promotions of the brand. The latest is in Chicago six days ending Oct.22 following a stop in New York City. Next up: Miami. The installation includes local barbers; a virtual reality tour of the distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., daytime concerts, plus Southern cooking (The Drum). Jack is the No. 1 brand at Brown-Forman, which employs 1,300 workers in Louisville and another 3,300 worldwide.

Ford idling production at Louisville auto plant as inventory levels rise too much

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 9:48 a.m.

FORD is shutting down production for a week at the Louisville Assembly Plant starting today, canceling shifts to slow production slightly as it pauses to allow demand to catch up with supply.  A second week off is scheduled to start Oct. 31. Sales of the two compact SUVs made there — Escape and MKC — are up slightly through September, but Ford officials said they want to keep production and inventory levels in line (Courier-Journal). The company employs nearly 4,700 workers at the factory, plus another 5,100 at its sister truck factory. More about Ford in Louisville.

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Fields

CEO Mark Fields is recasting the company as an auto maker and a transportation-services provider, as he pivots away from predecessor Alan Mulallay’s “One Ford” vision, shorthand for a painful downsizing and management overhauls that helped the automaker avoid bankruptcy and return to big profits. In recent months, according to a new Wall Street Journal story today, it has launched a series of investments and partnerships in areas like self-driving automobiles, electrified vehicles and ride sharing.

But those efforts have done little to raise the company’s stock, which has fallen by roughly 30% since Fields took over in mid-2014, despite record earnings last year. Investors appear more focused on plateauing U.S. auto sales and the company’s weakening near-term profit outlook. Some market watchers also say it isn’t clear how the new initiatives will mesh strategically (WSJ).

Amid orchestra’s contract talks, lessons learned after the wolf’s been chased away

July 4th Louisville orchestra
Music Director Teddy Abrams leads players during a July 4th concert at Waterfont Park.
Louisville Orchestra‘s 2011 bankruptcy recalls one of the morals from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” — let down your guard, and you may get gobbled up. Back then, the ensemble had grown overly reliant on a relative handful of backers, missing signs their generosity was about to dry up amid the financial crisis.

“No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” Jorge Mester, the music director at the time, told The New York Times for a story about a string of financial crises roiling orchestras that spring.

Now, five years later, the Louisville orchestra is on far more stable footing. Contributions and grants jumped 29% in the year ended May 31, 2015, bringing total revenue to $7.2 million, according to its most recent IRS tax return. After expenses, that left a $1.3 million surplus. The endowment rose about 3% to nearly $1.6 million.

Launched in 1937, the orchestra has about 170 employees and an energetic music director, Teddy Abrams, who started in 2014 after working as assistant conductor at the Detroit Symphony. Abrams, 29, is among a new vanguard of conductors hoping to attract a younger audience and a wider donor base to guard against another sharp downtown.

Against that backdrop, management and players have started negotiations for a new contract to replace one that expired last spring, according to The Courier-Journal. They’re not alone. From coast to coast this year, other ensembles have been in contract talks, too, amid a stronger economy that’s fortified players’ resolve to claw back wages and benefits lost during the financial crisis.

andrew-kipe
Kipe
The tenor of Louisville’s contract talks isn’t known because negotiators aren’t talking publicly. “The organization is still a bit fragile, and we are in the middle of planning,” Executive Director Andrew Kipe told the newspaper.

But a review of the group’s recent IRS returns, alongside contract talks at other orchestras, offers a glimpse at the fraught stakes involved. Continue reading “Amid orchestra’s contract talks, lessons learned after the wolf’s been chased away”

CJ top editor Budde is out, effective immediately; paper to ‘sharpen our focus on investigative journalism’

Neil Budde‘s abrupt resignation was announced this morning in an email to staff from Publisher Wesley Jackson, who didn’t provide an explanation for his departure. Budde, who is about 60, had been in the job since September 2013.

neil-budde
Budde

Budde leaves as the paper faces heightened competition from legacy rivals such as WDRB and from new ones: WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, and digital standalone Insider Louisville.

In his email, Jackson said: “We will sharpen our focus on investigative journalism and the urgency of all our coverage while doubling down on our goals of building new audiences and engaging them digitally.”

Jackson didn’t say whether any other staffing changes were in the works.

CJ owner Gannett Co. is ramping up efforts to coordinate news coverage among the approximately 100 dailies in the chain by having reporters from different sites work together on projects with a more national scope. The Louisville paper’s shakeup also comes as Gannett draws closer to buying Tronc, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and seven other big dailies plus 160 smaller weekly and monthly niche titles.

Jeff Taylor, the top editor at the CJ’s sister paper, the Indianapolis Star, will serve as interim editor while a permanent editor is found, according to Jackson.

Papa John’s serves up ‘one of biggest’ launches, and Wall Street smacks its lips

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:49 a.m.

PAPA JOHN’S: Calling it “one of its biggest product innovations in a decade,” the company has introduced a pan-style pizza with an even greater emphasis on fresh ingredients. “Made from fresh, never-frozen pan dough with no artificial preservatives,” the chain said yesterday in a news release, “this crust features seven simple ingredients — a signature blend of flour and extra virgin olive oil, cold-filtered water, sugar, salt, yeast and oil.”

papa-johns-pan-pizzaPapa John’s is promoting the new menu item with a specially designed black box, and a new advertising campaign featuring retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, and CEO John Schnatter. (See, above.)

Wall Street liked the news. The company’s stock (PZZA) jumped 3%, closing yesterday at $78.10, up $2.25. The rally continued after hours, with shares rising another 15 to $79.06.

Schnatter dumps another 86K Papa John’s shares; and U.S. economy added 156K jobs in September, weaker than forecast

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 9:24 a.m.

PAPA JOHN‘s CEO John Schnatter continued unloading shares in the pizza giant, selling another 86,000 on Wednesday and Tuesday for $6.6 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. That trade followed Monday’s, where the executive sold 73,637, and are in accordance with a trading plan he adopted early last month.

schnatter-stock-sales

The chain’s shares closed yesterday at $75.41.

In other news, the economy added 156,000 jobs last month vs. a forecast 170,000, the Labor Department said. The jobless rate, meanwhile, rose to 5% from 4.9% in August, according to the agency (multiple news accounts).

Courier-Journal owner Gannett Co.’s bid to acquire Tronc, owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other papers, could wrap up in the next two weeks if all the due diligence now underway checks out, sources tell the New York Post. “There is no disagreement on price, but there is still some [work] to be done,” one source close to the situation told the New York tabloid (Post).

The Post report follows an earlier one at Politico, which speculated the deal could be announced as early as this week.

Papa John’s CEO unloads $6 million in company stock

John Schnatter
Schnatter

John Schnatter sold the 73,637 shares yesterday at an average $78.17 each, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this afternoon. The trade left him with 10.4 million shares, and was made in accordance with a so-called Rule 10b5-1 trading plan he adopted Sept. 2, under which he could sell up to $36 million of stock.

With these trading plans, top executives typically sell a predetermined number of shares at fixed intervals to avoid any appearance of trading on insider information.

Farrer: B-F is sticking with Finlandia; and Kindred sells 12 acute-care hospitals

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:43 a.m.

marshall-farrer
Farrer

BROWN-FORMAN is still “very committed” to its Finlandia vodka unit, despite struggling sales in major Russian and eastern European markets, according to Marshall Farrer, head of the distiller’s global travel retail business and a company director. Farrer’s remarks, at the annual TFWA World Exhibition & Conference now under way in Cannes, followed industry speculation earlier this year that Brown-Forman had placed Finlandia on the auction block (Spirits Business).

KINDRED said it completed its previously announced agreement to sell 12 long-term acute care hospitals in six states for $27.5 million to Curahealth, an affiliate of the private investment fund Nautic Partners. The hospitals have a total of 783 licensed beds in Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee (press release). The Louisville-based hospital and nursing giant employs about 2,200 workers in the city, including at the Fourth and Broadway headquarters downtown. It has more than 100,000 workers nationwide.