|January 6, 2009|
|McClatchy Boss Rises to the Occasion; Now Only if Stock Price Follows|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt has a lot on his mind these days. |
Most of his corporate thoughts revolve around how his "once in a lifetime" 2006 acquisition of Knight-Ridder has turned into a nightmare for investors.
The $6.5B K-R deal, which propelled sleepy Sacramento-based McClatchy into the national spotlight, was made right before the newspaper industry plunged into the tank. It was based on the March 10 closing date of McClatchy’s stock price, which was $53.24. Those same shares trade today for $1.80, down 93 percent.
Things have gotten so bad the credit crunch may imperil McClatchy’s deal to sell the Miami Herald’s 10-acre parking lot to an investment group for $190M. McClatchy, on Dec. 30, extended the closing date on the transaction in a bid to allow Citisquare Group to obtain necessary financing.
With all that swirling around Gary’s head, he could have been forgiven had he let the ramblings of an octogenarian journalist slide. Instead, Pruitt rose to the occasion after ex-Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff told National Public Radio the morning of Jan. 3 he was "stunned" that McClatchy had closed its much-acclaimed D.C. bureau. This blogger is a big fan of the political, civil liberties and jazz columnist. But 83-year-old Nat may have been confused with the real news that Cox Newspapers is abandoning D.C. Or, he could have been distraught about losing his job at the Voice after a 30-year run.
Pruitt jumped right into the fray. He issued a statement to NPR that “any suggestion that McClatchy would close its Washington bureau is completely unfounded and false.” The D.C. outpost represents McClatchy’s “continuing commitment to providing outstanding regional, national and international news coverage.” NPR issued a correction on its website the same day, and edited the incorrect line out of Hentoff’s interview in subsequent broadcasts.
McClatchy's boss quickly set the record straight because he knows during these hard times misinformation or misstatements that are not set straight take on a life of their own. Once sucked into the Internet ether, those false reports are nearly impossible to squelch.
McClatchy/Washington is an oasis in the dreary newspaper scene. Anybody who wants the skinny on Washington is richly rewarded by a visit to the site’s “Planet Washington” blog.
For instance, today it tips its hat to the New York Times for its story about a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who claims he was tortured under the Bush Administration’s extraordinary rendition program. The Times piece is hailed a "must-read." McClatchy/D.C. fans, however, know it ran the stories about 66 former detainees last May. Their reports are available at www.mcclatchydc.com/detainees.
Hats off to McClatchy/D.C! Let’s hope McClatchy’s stock gets a nice lift in '09.
(Photo: Reuters via Daylife.com)
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