'Defender' Asking Detroit Pension Fund For $7.5 Million Loan Backing

By: E&P Staff Real Times Inc., the owner of the daily Chicago Defender and three other black-oriented weeklies, is asking the City of Detroit Retirement System to back a $7.5 million loan.

Real Times submitted a formal proposal to the pension fund on Jan. 29, according to The Michigan Citizen, which first reported on the proposed bailout in an article by Allison Jones with additional reporting by Diane Bukowski.

The 13-page proposal "includes three pages of pictures and minimal financial documentation," reported the Michigan Citizen, a Detroit-based weekly.

According to the account, Real Times said its 2006 sales were $9,795,859. The publishing company said it expects to nearly double sales to $18,050,420 in five years. "No financial history
was provided or supporting documentation for sales estimates," the Michigan Citizen article said.

Real Times told the pension fund that its debt load is $10.7 million.

Under the proposal, the pension plan would receive a 2% credit enhancement fee, and 10% of Real Times net profits.

Real Times CEO Hiram Jackson, who, according the newspaper, presented the plan along with CFO Britton Cox and Treasurer Gordon Follmer, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Jackson consistently declines to comment about the company or the Defender to E&P.

The Michigan Citizen quoted pension board minutes saying the Real Times proposal has been forwarded for review to North Pointe Advisors.

Pension plans have invested in newspapers, notably Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI), which is principally owned by a teacher's retirement plan in Alabama, and Osprey Media, a chain of Canadian community papers backed by a provincial pension fund.

In addition to the Defender, Real Times publishes the Michigan Chronicle, and Front Page in Detroit, and the New Pittsburgh Courier in Pennsylvania.


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