The company that owns the Reading Eagle received multiple bids Wednesday evening and executives “are now reviewing the offers” to see whether any are qualified, the newspaper company said in a statement on its website.
And with that deadline looming, the Reading Eagle Co. alerted more than 200 employees of the threat of massive layoffs.
“If there are multiple approved bidders, there will be an auction Friday in the law offices of Stevens & Lee.” The minimum bid was set at $5 million, and bidders had to submit a deposit of 10 percent.
The bankrupt family-owned newspaper, which lost $2 million through March 31, filed this week a notice of potentially deep staff cuts with the state’s Department of Labor and Industry. The targeted dates for layoffs are June 6 through 10, the notice says.
According to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice filed with the state, 209 Eagle employees could be laid off — the company’s entire staff. Reading Eagle reported on Wednesday that the notice will be changed to include 12 part-timers, bringing the total to 221 employees.
The Reading Eagle, where novelist John Updike got his start as an intern, is not alone when it comes to traditional news media outlets struggling financially as younger readers ditch newspapers for online sources to find their news. Revenues have fallen drastically as they lose ad dollars to the likes of Facebook and Google, which together have an out-sized share of the online advertising market.
Federal law requires companies with 100 or more employees to give notice if there is to be a mass layoff that affects at least 33 percent of the workforce.
“Reading Eagle Company does not concede it is required to comply with WARN’s notice requirements at this time,” Jennie Priest, executive director-human resources, said in a statement in the Reading Eagle article. “Nonetheless, we wanted our employees to be aware of the protections WARN offers in the event of a mass layoff, which, as of the date of the notice, is only possible, not probable.”
The Eagle filed for bankruptcy protection in March. In late April, Pennsylvania unemployment officials held meetings with employees to explain benefits. An Eagle human resources official told employees on Monday of the pending state notice.
The Eagle eliminated six jobs last week. Other employees have retired in the last month. There are fears that the newsroom staff could be cut by 20 percent.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ owner, Robert Nutting, toured the Eagle presses and facilities last week, leading to speculation that he could bid on the company. Digital First Media, which has a reputation for deep cuts to newsrooms, also could bid for the Reading Eagle Co., which also owns the local radio station WEEU, according to some insiders.