Liberty Group Publishing appears to be off the auction block.
Newspaper industry sources say that Liberty's $330 million loan commitment from Wells Fargo, reported exclusively last week in The Turner Report, indicate Liberty officials were not thrilled with the offers they received after the first, and so far only, round of bidding ended Oct. 25. Liberty owns The Carthage Press, The Neosho Daily News, The Neosho Post, and the Big Nickel in this area, and more than 300 newspapers nationwide.
Liberty's rush to a sale was due to a whopping debt payment that comes due this summer. The refinancing through Wells Fargo will help delay the company's day of financial reckoning for another seven years.
Liberty earnings totaled $44.3 million in the first nine months of 2004, but those were erased by the interest payments on the company's debt, which increased to $47 million, up from $32 million the previous year.
SEC records indicate Liberty lost $17.8 million over the first nine months of this year, compared to a $10.5 million loss over the same period in 2003.
Chicago Business is reporting that Vornado Realty Trust may be getting ready to attempt a takeover of Sears, in an effort to trump the previously announced, but unclosed deal with K-Mart.
The newspaper reports that Vornado filed papers with the SEC indicating it plans to issue as much as $2.5 billion in equity and $5 billion in debt. The company already owns four percent of Sears and indicated in its SEC filing that it might use the money for the "funding of an acquisition."
The deadline for antitrust approval for K-Mart's proposed takeover of Sears, is midnight tonight, the article said.
Vornado has been rumored as an obstacle to the Sears-K-Mart deal since it was first announced late last year.
Jarden Corporation has completed its acquisition of American Household, owner of the former Sunbeam plant in Neosho, according to a company news release filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission today.
The deal, which was originally announced Sept. 20, had Jarden paying $745.6 million and repaying $100 million worth of indebtedness.
American Household features the Sunbeam and Coleman brands.
On the same day that Jarden released to the SEC a copy of the news release it issued upon the finalization of the American Household purchase, the company also released information indicating it knows how to take care of its employees...at least if those employees are at the upper end of the totem pole.
New employment agreements were filed for the company's three top executives, including British-born CEO Martin E. Franklin. Franklin, 39, will receive an annual salary of $1,840,000. If he does a good job, he will receive an annual bonus of $920,000. He also will receive stock options, four weeks of paid vacation, and he will be able to observe all religious holidays that he "historically observes."
"For security purposes, (Franklin) shall be required to use at company expense private aircraft transportation for travel in North America unless a private aircraft is not reasonably available. Outside North America, he shall be entitled to first class air travel for business-related travel."
The company will also pay to have Franklin's personal income tax returns filed, give him a $10 million life insurance policy, plus he can have expenses of up to five percent of his annual salary, ($92,000) and he does not have to account for how he spends that money.
If for any reason, Franklin is not covered by the company's health insurance, he will receive an annual health care allowance of up to $30,000.
Slightly less lucrative arrangements were also made for Jarden's chief financial officer and chief operations officer.
The Neosho Daily News reports the metal detectors have been removed from the courthouse. No one minds some heightened security when it is necessary, but to force people who are at the courthouse to pay their taxes or to get a marriage license, to have to go through that hassle is unnecessary. An extra guard or two and perhaps metal detectors during times when particularly sensitive cases and hearing are being handled in the courtrooms would be fine, but to force everyone to go through this during every day normal business is ridiculous.
A Feb. 16 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, who is charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a felony, in connection with the hit-and-run death last week of Joplin High School senior Jamison Alexander. Wyrick entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment this morning in Jasper County Circuit Court. A public defender is being appointed for him.
The coverage of the funeral of Jamison Alexander and the arraignment of Travis Wyrick topped the newscasts on the local stations this evening with comprehensive coverage offered by every station except KODE.
KOAM, KSNF, and KFJX each offered strong packages with interviews with students who knew Mr. Alexander and Wyrick's arraignment. KODE also featured the events in its newscasts but did not offer any interviews and featured only voiceover narration for the footage it used.
Just as interesting was the way the death of Jamison Alexander and Travis Wyrick's arraignment were featured on the television stations' websites.
As of early this evening, only KOAM featured the story at the top of its news listings. Neither KODE nor KSNF led with that story, instead sticking with Nexstar Broadcasting's "Open Letter to Cable One Customers," the company's continued way of making its news staffs look like minor league operations.
KODE followed the open letter with an article entitled "Funeral for Joplin Teen Today."
KSNF followed the letter with three articles, "Alexander Funeral," "Dillon's Collections" (a story about a fund set up for Mr. Alexander by his former employer), and "Wyrick in Court."
KOAM combined those stories for its lead article, "One Teen Buried While Another Faces a Judge."
KFJX, the sister station to KOAM, juggled that station's top two articles, putting "Residents Oppose Trash Transfer Station" above "One Teen Buried While Another Faces a Judge."
Of course, even the Nexstar letters were more top of the page newsworthy than the article The Lamar Democrat led off its Wednesday, Jan. 26, edition with: "Seventh Annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Autofest- Democrat giving away 50 tickets."
If you don't have any other news for the top of page one, that might be all right, but buried beneath the fold was an article in which Lamar R-1 Superintendent Mike Resa explained the tax levy proposal which is being submitted to district voters in April.
And, by the way, has anyone told The Democrat that Daniel O'Sullivan resigned as chairman of the board at O'Sullivan Industries three months ago. It certainly seems as if that would be a major story for Barton County's paper of record.
Remember Rep. Kevin Wilson, the same sterling judge of leadership who praised Governor Matt Blunt's inaugural speech, saying he showed true leadership by cutting it short because it was cold?
Well, Rep. Wilson is at it again.
In Editor Buzz Ball's article in today's Neosho Daily News, Wilson again gushed with approval for the newly-elected governor's State of the State message. "It was an outstanding speech by the governor," Wilson told the Daily News. "He fulfilled his campaign promises by vowing to make government more accountable and making sure that we, as a state government, live within our means."
Of course, Wilson wasn't the only one kissing up to Blunt. State Senator Gary Nodler told the Daily, "The governor laid out a plan that would take Missouri forward into the 21st Century. He reassured us that education is his first priority. He constructed a road map on how to get there by increasing funding for education, while at the same time, make some long overdue Medicaid reforms."
State Rep. Marilyn Ruestman also praised the speech. "Once again,' she said, "those views are in step with the views of those in southwest Missouri."
The scary thing is, it appears these comments were made in all seriousness.