Sun-Times Media Holdings plans for more layoffs

Sun-Times Media Holdings LLC, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times and other suburban newspapers, is cutting workers in another round of reductions aimed at slashing costs as the company finishes its move to a centralized editorial and billing system.

Sun-Times CEO Jeremy Halbreich confirmed that some editorial workers and possibly other employees are losing their jobs, but he declined to say how many. This is the "final piece" of the 18 months of reductions, he said. He declined to say whether all employees had been notified at this point.

"It takes awhile to implement everything onto this new centralized platform," Mr. Halbreich said.

There were three employees cut at the Sun-Times, a photographer, a graphics artist and a feature writer, said Dave Roeder, who is treasurer of the Newspaper Guild of Chicago, which represents some of the company's editorial workers. He wasn't sure how many were cut across the company. Mr. Halbreich also declined to say how many employees the company now has.

"It has been very stressful," said Jean Lachat, who lost her job as a full-time photographer after 22 years at the company. "Part of me is really relieved to not have to worry about it anymore."

Ms. Lachat said she's not sure if she feels more sorry for those who lost their jobs or those who remain at the company and have to pick up the slack.

Related story: "Chicago investor group planning Sun-Times acquisition bid"

The Chicago-based company has cut hundreds of employees in the past two years at its flagship Chicago paper and at its suburban daily and weekly newspapers in centralizing the editorial and customer billing systems, shuttering some suburban weekly papers and outsourcing its printing and delivery to rival Tribune Co.

The company is still in the process of shifting the printing of the Sun-Times to rival Tribune, and those workers involved will be dismissed through January.

Mr. Halbreich declined to say whether the company is profitable at this point. Its newspaper assets were purchased out of bankruptcy by an investment group led by the late James Tyree in 2009 for $5 million in cash and the assumption of about $20 million in debt. Following Mr. Tyree's death in March, Mr. Halbreich became chairman of the board, which consists of the investors assembled by Mr. Tyree.

He said the staff reductions aren't related to any bid for the company and that there are no discussions to sell the company. Nonetheless, Merrick Ventures LLC CEO Michael Ferro Jr. has been trying to put together an investment group that was considering an offer of $14 million plus the assumption of debt to buy the company, according to sources familiar with the effort. Mr. Halbreich says he hasn't heard from the group.

Source: Chicago Business