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Bankruptcy, Tierney And ‘Business As Usual’

022409richuncletierneybags.jpg Bankruptcy in the real world isn’t like Monopoly. In the real world, filing Chapter 11 is a way to protect a company from its creditors while reorganizing. In Monopoly, on the other hand, nobody ever reaches bankruptcy because people quit playing when they realize it’s three hours in and nobody has even built any houses yet. Sometimes it’s nice to imagine a world like Monopoly.

Ahem. By now you know the story: The owners of the Inquirer and Daily News have filed for bankruptcy. Since then, there’s been a ton of hilarious news: We learned Tierney gave himself a 42 percent raise in December, then he and two other executives who got raises — including professional sports car driver Mark Frisbygave them back.

But there’s more! Yesterday the newspapers’ owners had their day in court. Ownership rarely, if ever, remains the same when a company files for bankruptcy, but the papers’ owners want to remain in charge, their lawyers said yesterday. Here’s the juicy details:

But lawyers for the investors who hold $297 million in debt said they were stunned that Brian P. Tierney, chief executive of the papers, had turned away from a $20 million lifeline from current lenders in favor of a loan that would protect his job, according to a court filing and testimony at yesterday’s opening hearing in Philadelphia.

Instead, Tierney and his backers lined up a $25 million loan - known as debtor-in-possession financing - from a different group that included Philadelphia Newspapers chairman Bruce Toll. It includes a provision that would put the loan in default if Tierney left the company.

There’s reason to believe this isn’t just ownership trying to save face. Obviously, Tierney doesn’t want to lose his job. But it is true that any new owners would possibly (probably? likely?) shutter the Daily News and maybe void union contracts; creditors have been pushing the papers’ owners to do this for months now. “They wanted me to stay and offered me a handsome compensation plan and a piece of the company, both verbally and in writing,” Tierney said in a statement.

Andrew Kassner, an agent for Citizens Bank, says the creditors are not looking to simply dismantle the papers and run things with a skeleton crew. He also notes, though, the company is worth less than its debt and criticized the papers for poor management.

“Most companies would have hired a crisis manager,” Kassner said. “To this company, it was business as usual.” To be fair, newspapers have been in crisis since about 1998 or so.

Kassner made it pretty clear that the creditors want Tierney out; he also attempted to sound like there wouldn’t be massive cuts if there were a bankruptcy restructuring. Tierney said afterward that “[o]nce we told them that we weren’t interested in working for them to, in effect, damage the company we love, they had a change of heart.”

So, yes, it was just a big spin session for everyone during yesterday’s hearing. The next one’s on March 9.

Herb Denenberg, Media Expert

021109herb.jpg Things were good for Bulletin columnist Herb Denenberg back in 2005. Bush was president, the war was still semi-popular (I guess) and the economy only mildly stunk. As such, the former consumer reporter spent most of his columns writing about squirrels in attics and the many different kinds of beetles.

Things are different in 2009. Some dude named Obama is president, the Phillies are reigning World Champions and the economy really, really stinks. As such, Herb Denenberg has used his recent columns to relentlessly bash Barack Obama, Democrats and the like. He spends about half of his sentences whining about how awful the good ol’ United States of America is, and the other half telling certain people (Democrats, Obama, the news media, Hollywood, college professors, etc.) to leave America because they hate it. I believe this is the time we can actually use the word “ironic” without fear of using it wrong. So, yes: Ironic!

The media has received the brunt of his ire recently, including a recent column on the Philadelphia magazine piece about the Inquirer. While he does come up with, um, a great new slogan for the Inky (”In Philadelphia, nearly everyone hates the Inquirer”) he also takes shots at Phillymag as well.

Any summary of this part of the column would not do it justice, so let’s just blockquote it out:

He misses something else, which suggests even after conducting 100 interviews, he is not in touch with the Philadelphia scene. He notes that Brian Tierney is the co-owner, publisher and CEO of this “city’s newspapers.” I’ve got news for Mr. Volk and Philadelphia Magazine. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News are not this “city’s newspapers” as if they were the only ones. For over four years, there happens to be another daily, The Bulletin, and there happens to be many strong weeklies. And there’s the Metro, another daily, certainly worthy of note. Mr. Volk notes that the Inquirer is surrounded by a strong ring of suburban papers, and hence have no room to expand. But he should note that it faces competition from two other dailies, which are also taking a significant number of readers away from the Inquirer. As the Inquirer contracts, the Bulletin expands. As they say, that’s just one more nail in the Inquirer coffin.

Apparently the exhaustive research of the Philadelphia Magazine failed to uncover the existence of the Bulletin. The best daily in America, the Wall Street Journal, is aware of the Bulletin, obviously reads it, and recently quoted it in one of its editorials. [...] Later, the editorial, in discussing all the new competition eating away at the Inquirer, noted, “Smaller papers like the Bulletin are also working hard to reach a larger audience.”

If the best paper in the land can find and quote the Bulletin, something is radically wrong when Philadelphia Magazine, in an article on the very subject of the Philadelphia newspaper scene, seems to be clueless on what’s going on in its own market.

I think that could be a new slogan for the Bulletin: “Read by the Wall Street Journal!”

What’s Wrong With Newspapers And The Pundits Who Write About Them [The Bulletin]

Fun With Newspaper Leads

“Have a nice day” was not exactly what Jon Bon Jovi said to the former sales manager of the Philadelphia Soul, who alleges that the rock icon and his partners in the Arena Football League team have not paid him nearly $125,000 in wages and commissions

“It’s my life,” said Bon Jovi, claiming that he did not owe the sales manager any extra money. He added the manager did not do a good job and was “a little runaway,” frequently missing meetings, and would “never say goodbye” beforehand. He said they had a little saying at the office about this guy: “Wanted: Dead or Alive.”

Jovi added several other statements about his time with the Soul. “Everyday” and “Always,” he said, was this guy paid his money, adding the team even bought his wife a “Bed of Roses.”

Later, Jovi seemed distraught. “Say It Isn’t So,” he said, adding that he needed “Something for the Pain.” He did add, though, that he was going to “Keep the Faith.”

Suit: Phila. Soul partners owe nearly $125,000 [Inquirer]
Image by Anirudh Koul used under a Creative Commons license

My Fave Eagles Story Of The Day

It’s hard reading Eagles stories the day after a disappointing loss — and, for the most part, I’ve just been skimming — but this is a story I read all the way through. Using the popular “traded emails” format, we learn that, indeed, the Eagles were not any easier to watch in Iraq than in Philadelphia. Or Arizona, for that matter.

But, you know, maybe the only appropriate place for Eagles fans to watch that game was in a war zone.

It did not look any better from Iraq [Inquirer]

Mysterious Fake Inquirer Fronts

What would you expect to find in the photostream of a Flickr user named Romney 2012? Would you believe parody Philadephia Inquirer pages?!

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And there are one and two and three. Number two has a headline saying Pat Burrell left for the money — which is so laughably the opposite of the situation I don’t know where to start — and number three has this awesome skybox above the flag:

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The fonts and such are all dead on, but whatever Romney supporter is behind this is probably just editing a .pdf of the front page in Acrobat to change the headlines.

But that’s no fun, so let’s use this theory instead: It’s a disgruntled design employee who stays behind after work to make a parody front page, making sure to put at least one right-wing talking point in each issue. Ha ha, did you see that one page? Peter Griffin of Family Guy died!

Oh, man, this dude also has a photo of a rocket slide! We used to have one of those at Picariello Playground when I was little and it was awesome. Kids today don’t know what they’re missing.

Abridged Daily News Columnists: Brian Tierney Special Edition

There’s only one column in today’s Daily News, but it’s by Publisher Brian Tierney, so let’s make fun of it for a little bit. (Post-writing editor’s note: Or maybe for a long time, like a billion words or so. Whoops.)

WHAT HAPPENED last week was like a scene from a holiday movie.

Did an angel show Brian Tierney what it would be like if he had never lived in a gimmicky, schmaltzy way?

In the face of the biggest demand for toys in years, the Philadelphia Area Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program was experiencing its smallest contributions in memory. With a week to go in its campaign to help needy children, the toy total was less than half its usual count. And, in the most challenging economy in decades, there was little hope for improvement. Things looked bleak.

Oh. That’s not good, but I don’t really see how it’s much like Brian Tierney being visited by three ghosts and learning the true meaning of Christmas.

We started a campaign in the

I just want to point out that, currently, this is the last part of the story in regular text; everything else is in italics from this point out. I totally haven’t italicized my whole site in a while, but it happens to the best of us.

Daily News, Inquirer and Philly.com to alert our readers to this need.

A week later, 40,000 more toys came through our doors, to put the total at over 60,000. The increased cash contributions are still being tabulated.

This “Miracle on Broad Street” illustrates the extraordinary power of our newspapers - to highlight a problem, galvanize our community and make a real difference, every single day.

Let’s call a moratorium on “Miracle on [x] Street” references unless it really works from now on. This is about the third or fourth thing I’ve heard called “Miracle on Broad Street” this year (including the Phillies’ World Series win, which took place in between 10th and Darien Streets).

And, uhm, this scenario doesn’t sound much like Miracle on 34th Street. The only way this would be like a Christmas movie is if people donated Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifles. (Note: Please do not notify me of a movie called The Christmas Toy Drive or something that is about a newspaper and its heroic toy drive.)

More »

WFC FCC WTF

Hey, remember this?

Yes, of course, you remember that, it was hilarious when Chase “The Model” Utleybot 5000 said “World Fucking Champions” on live TV during the Phillies parade.

Somebody (Mike Klein, I guess) at the Inquirer got the good idea to FOIA the complaints to the FCC over the incident; the result is this article from the Inquirer that details the Utley complaints. Some of them are great.

“If they didn’t want such words to be broadcast, they should have aired [it] on a delay to catch any obscene language,” wrote a viewer from Philadelphia. “Pull their license to broadcast.”

The Phillies? All the local TV stations? Man, it aired on pretty much every channel, I really don’t want to have to watch just MyNetworkTV and the CW from now on, although I guess I would still get Gossip Girl.

Another viewer wrote: “He should be disciplined for his lack of respect towards his fans and in particular the children exposed to such vulgarity. . . . The broadcasters are not at fault. Chase Utley is.”

Disciplined… by whom? The Phillies, I guess. The Phillies could suspend him or fine him or something. Why this person would be writing to the FCC about this, I have no idea. But people do just complain about anything to anyone, as we’ve seen.

On a side note, can we look at what Chase Utley said to deflect questions about saying fuck on TV:

“I tell all kids not to use that word. If they’re 29 and they win the World Series, I think they can say that. But I definitely would say to all the kids out there, ‘Kids, it’s a bad word. Don’t say it. And I’m dead serious.’”

Ha ha, great, I mean it. I also love how dead serious he is — dead serious enough to say “And I’m dead serious.” Don’t say that word, kids. Take it from me, Chase Utley. Look at all the stupid mail I’ve had to deal with because I said it!

Another: “This was not a casual slip. This was an intentional misuse and abuse of the public airwaves. . . . How am I to explain such profanity to my child?”

I don’t know, maybe you can explain to your son or daughter that multimillionaires who have an uncanny ability to hit a ball (far!) with a bat sometimes say silly things, including saying the one word you’re not supposed to say on television on a live television broadcast. Ha ha, that was so awesome, I just remembered.

And another: “It was embarrassing that he was allowed to do that and if there are no ramifications I will be furious. Is there no platform that is sacred anymore?”

Yes, back when World Series victory parades were sacred. Like when the Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series in 1930, and they had the big parade, and second baseman “Camera Eye” Bishop gave a speech about how the A’s finished 102-52 but their Pythagorean record was only 93-61 and it just made him go, “World Bullfeather Champions.” Yes, I don’t know when things changed, but I bet it’s when they took the prayer out of World Series victory parades.

A radio listener who wrote, “I heard it here in Camden,” said: “That sort of language is no big deal… except that Howard Stern was driven off free radio by you, the FCC, because of content and bad words and the like. It’s only fair that broadcasters be held to the same standards… Fine KYW as much as you are legally allowed to fine them!… Lord knows the US Treasury could use the money.”

And, of course, one of the letters is from a Stern fan. I would wager good money the next sentence of this was, “Baba Booey, Baba Booey, Oh my, Richard Christie!”

FCC gets complaints on Utley’s on-air F-bomb [Inquirer]

Marley & Me Promotions Begin

121508marleyandme.jpg

Oh, boy, am I excited for the film version of Marley & Me. But what I am even more excited for is this thing at the Inquirer! From a memo sent to employees titled “FW: Marley Mania”:

Activites will include:

  • The first 100 readers who come to the Inquirer with their dog will receive a pass for two to a special preview of Marley & Me.
  • Join 92.5 XTU for great Marley giveaways & “Pooch Pictures With Santa”
  • Enjoy a sampling of delicious hot chocolate & munchkins courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts
  • All will be eligible to win a “Marley” replica – straight from the film! Provided by Doggie Style, with locations in Center City & South Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia SPCA Adoption Van On Site

What’s a “‘Marley’ replica”? (Are they going to be selling stuffed Marley puppies? Aww, so cute!) What, for that matter, are “great Marley giveaways”?

Unfortunately for employees over at 400 N. Broad, they can’t compete in the dog contest: “Unfortunately employees cannot bring their dogs to work so instead bring a picture of your dog to the public room between 11:30 – 1:30. We’ll post them outside and vote who has the cutest dog! Winners will receive a special doggy prize.”

Tweeter Closes, Injuring Jason Lee

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All of the Philadelphia area Tweeter stores had already closed, but earlier this week it abruptly shut down the rest of its locations. I kind of thought the above photo (of Neil Young, age 154) was pretty strange; turns out it’s a performance from the Tweeter Center. But if you click to the other photo you will find my new favorite photo taken by any photographer anywhere ever:

120408tweeter2.jpg

This is, by far, the creepiest photo ever. On a side note, those truly were “happier days,” though maybe not for Earl.

Correction: All of the Philadelphia stores had already closed, but the Philadelphia Business Journal says there were 6 area stores that closed just this week. Duly noted.

Vince Fumo, Dark Lord

120108wizardfumo.jpg Today, the Inquirer ran a story about Vince Fumo and the “dark arts of politics.” It turns out — gasp — Fumo attempted to secretly oppose Ed Rendell in the 2002 gubernatorial primary. Yes, shocking. A man who was forced to resign from a state job in 1973 because the Inquirer reported he had a Nixon-like spy team did something underhanded. A politician did something underhanded. Gasp!

Anyway, the idea didn’t work (as Rendell won). Perhaps he should have hired a better copywriter!

Fumo even plotted exactly how to word the attack. “Rendell is just another Philadelphia Mayor/Lawyer who won’t make US his top priority,” he suggested the advertisement say, according to a Fumo e-mail.

Just another Philadelphia mayor/lawyer. That catchphrase didn’t help Bob Casey win the primary? Gasp! Are we sure Fumo wasn’t actually a double agent for Ed Rendell?

Fumo is also accused of planning a Section 8 housing database, so he could show it to residents of Mayfair or wherever and tell them not to vote for Ed Rendell. What dastardly deeds! (He used a non-profit’s money to compile this list, so I suppose that’s the malfeasance here.)

But, uhm, anyway, can we get that list? I bet it’d be really interesting. The story’s pretty good, by the way, especially the part about Fumo being a dark lord who runs Pennsylvania politics with his wizard hat and his ancient magic. Or maybe I just imagined that part.

Trial sheds new light on how Fumo plied dark arts of politics [Inquirer]