After Singleton merger, Donrey Media sheds corporate layers p.8

By: Mark Fitzgerald Having handed William Dean Singleton control of its 10 California dailies, Donrey Media Group is now taking an ax to its corporate structure.
The chain that once held a tight rein on its newspaper and outdoor advertising properties from its headquarters in Las Vegas is now empowering local publishers to compete as they see fit in their markets.
"We're going to try to unroll a lot of years of corporate build-up and try to push that responsibility down to the publisher level where we think it belongs," Frederick says.
And for the first time, Donrey's outdoor advertising division will be responsible for its own destiny.
"The last thing an outdoor advertising guy needs is a newspaper guy telling him how big his billboards should be or what angle their facing should be," says Donrey's new president of newspaper operations, Sherman R. Frederick.
Frederick, 47, replaces Emmet Jones, who retired. The announcement of Frederick's appointment was accompanied by news of the departures of several top Donrey executives.
Also retiring is Dave Osborn, vice president of Donrey's Western newspaper group, and Don Schneider, vice president of the Eastern newspaper group. Lynn Mosier, vice president of Donrey's administrative support group, resigned to pursue other business interests, Donrey said.
"We decided to adopt a more streamlined management structure in light of the changes the company has undergone in the last year," says Warren A. Stephens, president of Stephens Group Inc., which bought Donrey from the Reynolds family in 1993.
Last summer, Donrey sold 25 dailies and three weeklies in eight states to Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., the fast-growing chain backed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama pension fund.
And last month, Donrey entered into an unusual strategic partnership with Singleton's MediaNews Group Inc. in California. Donrey contributed its 10 daily and two nondaily California papers to a company that will be two-thirds owned by Garden State Newspaper, Singleton's partnership with Richard Scudder, and one-third owned by Donrey. Singleton is contributing 10 of its MediaNews California papers.
Now Donrey owns outright14 newspapers, one television station, nine outdoor advertising companies. The dramatic changes do not augur any withdrawal from the newspaper business, Frederick emphasizes.
"We are absolutely not in the liquidation mode," Frederick says.
Investor Stephens says Donrey is "actively seeking other newspaper and outdoor advertising acquisitions."
What has changed, newspaper operations president Frederick says, is that Donrey's former top-down corporate culture has outlived its usefulness.
"Publishers at the local level need to be able to do the kind of things it takes to control their markets," Frederick says. "I'll clearly not be able to do that from Las Vegas."
Frederick will remain publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a post he has held since 1992. He says he sometimes chafed under the old Donrey management style and believes publishers will welcome the change.
"It was cumbersome, for sure," he says, "and I'm sure other publishers felt that, too. We had a very entrenched corporate culture. ? We're looking for publishers who realize there is no safety net at the corporate level."
Looking ahead, Frederick says he sees the deal with Singleton transforming Donrey into a player in a suddenly very changed Southern California newspaper market.
"From a company standpoint, we think we get a lot from this," Frederick says. "What' going on in Southern California is going to be watched very closely by the industry. All of a sudden, that marketplace is highly competitive ? and at a much higher level of competition."
Frederick began his newspaper career with Donrey in 1976 as a reporter at the Review-Journal. He was named city editor in 1979 and the next year was named editor of the Hilo-based Hawaii Tribune-Herald. In 1985 he was named general manager of the Alamogordo (N.M.) Daily News. He returned to Las Vegas as editor in 1988 and was named publisher in 1992.
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