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State Senator

Saud Anwar

Representing East Hartford, Ellington, East Windsor and South Windsor

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Senator Anwar Addresses Letter to Hartford Courant Owners Expressing Concern Over Corporate Ownership, Need For Journalism in Modern Democracy

Today, State Senator Saud Anwar addressed a letter to leaders of the firm currently holding a majority investment stake in the parent company of the Hartford Courant, among others, expressing concern over the firm's ineffective management approach and citing a need for effective journalism to support a modern democracy.

In the letter to Heath B. Freeman, president and director of Alden Global Capital LLC, and Randall D. Smith, founder and chief of investments for Alden Global Capital, Sen. Anwar noted issues with the firm's "slash-and-extract-cash" business model applied to newspapers while journalists perform award-winning work and said the business model is bad for "newspapers, journalists, our communities and our democracy."

"Informed citizens are the most critical part of our democracy and for our democracy to remain effective and functional, we need newspapers and independently functioning journalism," Sen. Anwar wrote. "It's become clear that while journalists at the Hartford Courant continue to do award-winning work, Alden's business practices threaten the very existence of the newspaper."

Sen. Anwar concluded the letter by noting if Alden is unwilling to invest in the Hartford Courant, its board can seek another partner "willing to protect the newspaper, the journalists, the staff and the values" supported by the newspaper since its inception.

The full text of the letter is included below.


Date: March 2nd, 2020


Mr. Heath B. Freeman
President & Director
Alden Global Capital LLC
885 Third Avenue #34
New York NY 10022

Mr. Randall D. Smith
Founder & Chief of Investments
Alden Global Capital LLC
885 Third Avenue #34 New York NY 10022

Dear Mr. Freeman and Mr. Smith:

I am writing to share my concerns about the future of Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United State, and the largest daily newspaper in the state of Connecticut. During Alden Global Capital’s tenure as the major investor in MediaNews Group, which owns more than 100 newspapers, Alden has imposed a slash- and-extract-cash business model that is devastating the papers. The cutting staff to the bone and selling valuable assets, the company has invested the newspapers’ earnings in unrelated assets such as Peabody Energy, Fred’s, Inc. (a pharmacy chain) and Payless shoe store, not to mention Greek sovereign debt and mortgage-backed securities. This disinvestment has impaired the papers and the communities they serve.

I am highly concerned Alden is the largest shareholder in Tribune Publishing, which owns the Hartford Courant and 10 other daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News. Newspapers are public good and fulfill an important responsibility to cover local perspective, are an ingredient of community development, connecting people in local communities, providing news updates on town, state government and national news. Informed citizens are the most critical part of our democracy and for our democracy to remain effective and functional, we need newspapers and independently functioning journalism.

Alden’s business strategies are already showing their impact in Tribune Publishing, which offered employee buyouts two months after Alden acquired its 32 percent stake in the company. Weeks later, chief financial officer Terry Jimenez replaced Tim Knight as chief executive officer and executed his own round of cuts, slashing at least six Tribune Publishing executives.

In February, another leadership shakeup hit the Chicago Tribune with the departures of Editor-in-chief Bruce Dold and Managing Editor Peter Kendall. Colin McMahon, senior vice president and chief content officer for Tribune Publishing, took over as editor in chief.

It’s become clear that while journalists at the Hartford Courant continue to do award-winning work, Alden’s business practices threaten the very existence of the newspaper.

These developments are not simply the result of economic forces beyond Alden’s control: They reflect a business model that is bad for newspapers, journalists, our communities and our democracy.

I am shocked to learn through, The Washington Post reports that Alden is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor for investing nearly $250 million of employees’ pension savings in other Alden funds.

If Alden is unwilling to make the needed investments in the Hartford Courant, I believe that the Hartford Courant board can always seek another partner, that is willing to protect the newspaper, the journalists, the staff and the values that have been lived by this institution since its inception.

Sincerely

Senator Saud Anwar

 

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