Blog Post

Washington Post Offers Another Buyout; Graham Raises Bar For Acquisitions

imageThe Washington Post announced its fourth round of buyouts in five years today, but this time the company is specifically targeting employees whose jobs don’t need to be replaced. Last year, the paper said, 231 employees accepted buyouts, reducing the company’s earnings by $79.8 million. The new buyouts will be spread across a range of departments, including the newsroom, production, circulation, advertising, and IT.

The paper’s newsroom is about 22 percent smaller than it was in 2003, the Post said. (The previous rounds of buyouts at the Post were aimed at replacing higher salaries with lower ones.) “While we expect to be able to achieve meaningful staff reductions through” the buyouts, “I am sorry to say that we cannot rule out layoffs in the future,” said Publisher Katharine Weymouth in a memo to employees. Memos from Weymouth and WaPo Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli after the jump.

Staci adds: Weymouth told Reuters website employees won’t be offered buyouts. She also said she has submitted a plan to the board detailing how to make the paper profitable. Chairman and CEO Donald Graham said last December that he is willing to lose money running the paper if he believes it will break through, as was the case with the company’s now-profitable Kaplan subsidiary. He repeated that sentiment in the annual report sent out this week, reminding shareholders that more than 90 percent of his own personal holdings are concentrated in the company’s stock.

He said he expected the Post to lose “substantial money” this year, some in non-cash accelerated depreciation because of the planned printing plant closure” but “most will be real losses. Post management knows that losses must diminish in 2010.” In the report, he also warned shareholders to get used to impairments — and sounded a warning about acquisitions, after mentioning the higher interest rate the company has to pay on the $400 million debt refinanced last month: “The Company can handle the added interest cost. But to have no debt at all — unless for a very compelling reason — seems wiser than ever. It should not have taken the 2008 financial crisis to make me tighten my definition of ‘very compelling’ acquisitions