The labor unions at 12 Lee Enterprises newspapers claim the newspaper publisher will be left “in ashes” if it is taken over by hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
Union officials sent an open letter to Lee’s board of directors on Monday, urging the company to reject the Alden offer.
“They will take this proud company, built over decades of hard work, and leave it in ashes,” the letter reads. “Thousands of us will lose our jobs, and the communities we serve will never recover. Cities with weakened or shuttered newspapers have lower turnout, higher taxes, more corruption and increased polarization. Our democracy suffers, and Alden reaps the rewards.”
The letter also states: “Alden has cut their staffs at twice the rate of competitors, resulting in the loss of countless jobs. They’ve fostered unhealthy and untenable workplaces that make it impossible to retain talent. They’ve shuttered physical newsrooms to leave journalists working from their cars, and at properties they lease, Alden stiffs local landlords for the rent. Their investment history is littered with bankruptcies and federal probes, and they use secretive money to fund their shady dealings.”
The unions represent some of the largest newspapers within Lee, including the Omaha World-Herald, The Buffalo News and the Richmond-Times Dispatch.
Alden, which owns more than 6% of Lee stock, offered on Nov. 22 to buy the rest of Lee shares for $24 each, or about $141 million.
The newspaper chain announced last week in a news release that it may launch a “poison pill” plan that has the goal of making it more difficult and more costly for Alden to get controlling stake of the company. The plan would allow its other shareholders to buy shares at a 50% discount or possibly get free shares for every share they already own. The plan would take effect if Alden gets control of at least 10% of Lee’s stock.
Lee Enterprises, headquartered in Davenport, owns 77 daily newspapers across the nation, including the Quad-City Times, Dispatch-Argus and Muscatine Journal.