@ Media Week: FitzSimons: Tribune “Not Actively Involved” In Knight Ridder Process; Job Cuts Total


:Updated: Asked about potential interest in Knight Ridder’s larger markets, Tribune Chairam Dennis FitzSimons told UBS attendees, “We look at acquisitions all the time. I would suggest we’re not actively involved in the Knight Ridder process; right now we’re focused on organic growth.” He left the door open for some market swaps.

— The Tribune’s job slashing equals some four percent of the total workforce, 900-plus jobs overall — mostly from publishing. The company, which will end the year operating at a 25-percent margin, will take a $40-45 million cash severance charge and $50-60 million non-cash charge for closing an LA printing plant for estimated annual savings of $55-60 million. FitzSimons stessed, though, that the company’s investments in interactive and other areas. “We can only do so much cutting. On the other hand, we’re investing, we’re redeploying.” [Later, when I asked FitzSimons about a report that Tribune would cut another four percent next year, he said that was not the case.]
— CareerBuilder.com will start limited international in the UK and on a smaller scale in India. The primary focus is people looking for jobs in the U.S. Tribune Publishing president Scott Smith said the CareerBuilder.com board met last week and voted on a budget that includes a “significant investment in sales and marketing, and a bottom line at the network level … a smaller loss but a loss next year.” But, he noted, the job network functions much like a television network with affilates picking up a considerable amount of profit while the network carries most of the expenses. That means significant margins at affiliates, low margins at the network. … We and our partners make a lot of money at the affiliate level.”
Update: Through a fluke in timing I ended up at the Tribune’s CSFB q-and-a, which was just crashed by MoveOn.org. Given the mike to aska question under the assumption he was an investor or analyst, Move On member Noah Winer made a mini-speech and tried to present a petition with 45,000 signatures protesting the job cuts. Winder asked why, given profit of $595 million, the Tribune had to cut jobs: “Many of us are wondering why you’re cutting the ability to deliver news your readers want. … Will you meet with some of those consumers? They’re outside.”The reaction from the moderator:
“Can we take the mike and move to the next question. Please give the mike back.” He had to ask repeatedly until Winer returned the mike while some in the audience complained about the waste of time.

Update II: The drama continued after the session when Winer tried to give FitzSimon’s the box of petitions. Holding a tape recorder, Winer asked repeatedly if he would meet with “his customers.” FitzSimons looked at him, and said, “No”. Very intense and easily the most excitement of either conference thus far. Unfortunately, it also cut down on time to talk to the execs, who left in a hurry.

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