Chicago Sun-Times: stock trading at a nickel a share

Dateline: Tue 31 Mar 2009

You know it's hard times when a great newspaper town like Chicago has a paper on the skids -- that would be, today, the Sun-Times, which filed for Chapter 11.

Here are some key pieces to this puzzle, from the Sun-Times' letter to its readers today:

"The petition was filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. (Sun-Times Media Group) Chairman Jeremy Halbreich said the filing was a difficult decision but essential for the company "to re-establish itself as a self-sustaining, profitable operation. 'That is worth fighting for.'"

The villain in this scenario is former owner Conrad Black, who drove the paper into the ground with greed -- and left the Internal Revenue Service with its hand out:

"The company has one significant creditor" says the Sun-Times, "-- the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has said Sun-Times Media Group owes up to $608 million in back taxes and penalties from past business practices by its former controlling owner, Conrad Black, now imprisoned for theft from corporate coffers."

With no crystal ball at hand, I do not know how this will turn out. I just know that some of the guttiest newspaper people around remain with the Sun-Times -- columnists Neil Steinberg, Mary Mitchell, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper come to mind.

The paper's chairman -- Halbreich -- predicted the bankruptcy will be resolved by the end of the year. Hope so.


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