Philly Newspapers Sale Unlikely to Close Today

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By: E&P Staff

The sale of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News remains in jeopardy as the clock ticks down to the extended deadline to complete it — with one vital piece still not in place.

If a contract cannot be reached by noon today between the prospective new owners and Teamsters Local 628, the union representing the papers’ drivers, there will be no sale, Greg Osberg, Philadelphia Media’s chief executive officer, told the Inquirer’s Christopher K. Hepp.

Philadelphia Media Network Inc., which made the top bid to buy the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com at a bankruptcy auction in April for $139 million, had planned to finalize its purchase of the media outlets by today. But ongoing negotiations with the papers’ various unions have threatened the deal’s closing.

If new contracts cannot be reached with all the unions — nearly all of which have already approved new terms —the purchase agreement allows the new ownership to walk away from the deal.

On Monday, the drivers said in a statement that Philadelphia Media Network was putting “the company at risk” by refusing to “bargain in good faith to maintain our members’ pensions,” the Inquirer reported.

Local 628 President John Laigaie told the Inquirer his members were upset by Philadelphia Media Network’s plan to end payments to the Teamsters’ pension fund. The company has offered instead to contribute to a matching 401(k) program or a retirement fund jointly administered by the company and the local union. But the union says it will not yield on the pension issue.

“Our members and retirees will lose retirement benefits, which they paid for out of their wages,” the statement read.

It remains unclear whether Chief Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Raslavich, who had extended the sale date at the request of Philadelphia Media Network Inc. (the name of the new company, should the deal be finalized), will grant another extension.

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