You might say this company really believes in freedom of the press. Freedom Communications is a leading newspaper publisher with more than 30 daily papers mostly in California, North Carolina, and Texas. Its portfolio includes The Orange County Register in California, which boasts a circulation of about 195,000. The company also publishes more than 60 weekly community papers and it owns nearly 10 TV stations, mostly affiliated with CBS and ABC, serving markets in a half dozen states. Freedom Communications, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, was founded by R. C. Hoiles. It is controlled by an investment group that includes Angelo Gordon & Co., Alden Global Capital, and Luxor Capital Group.
The company's successful reorganization cut its debt load by $450 million and provided unsecured creditors with more than $30 million. The deal also wiped out the 55% stake held by the Hoiles family, which had controlled Freedom Communications for more than 75 years. (Private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners owned the remaining interest.) New owner Angelo Gordon is no stranger to the harsh realities of the newspaper business, though; the New York City-based hedge fund also controls the Star Tribune of Minneapolis (through Star Tribune Media) and led a buyout of the Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia Media Holdings in 2010.
While it emerged from bankruptcy on a better financial footing, Freedom Communications still faces the challenge posed by a declining newspaper industry. Print readership and advertising revenue have been steadily trending downward for years due to in part to increasing competition from online publications and other digital media. In response, the company announced pay cuts across its organization in 2009. The Orange County Register also cut its staff and implemented other cost-reductions in order to prop-up the bottom line.
Freedom Communications brought in Mitchell Stern to take over as CEO in 2010. He previously served as chairman and CEO of Fox Television Stations, a part of News Corporation's Fox Entertainment division. Stern replaced board member Burl Osborne, who led the company through its Chapter 11 reorganization.
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