Hedge Clippers Releases Report on Alden Global Capital

This morning, NewsGuild released a damning report on Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that controls more than 70% of MediaNews Group (e.g., Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, and the Boston Herald).

Alden has gained notoriety for prioritizing profit over purpose in community papers—“Alden Global Capital may pretend it is saving journalism, but repeating a lie does not make it true. We believe the hedge fund has done more to hurt American journalism than any single force in the last decade.” Below are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Alden’s MNG, then known as Digital First Media (DFM), purchased the Orange County Register in March 2016, folding it into its Southern California News Group. Later that year, it sold the Register’s headquarters. It initiated employee buyouts in 2017.[39] The SCNG cut its newsroom staff in half between 2016 and 2018.[40] The Register stopped reviewing local theater productions in May 2018 due to short staffing.[41] In May 2019, the SCNG began outsourcing copy editing and page design to the Philippines.[42]
  • DFM acquired The Boston Herald out of bankruptcy in February 2018, at which time Nieman Journalism Lab director Joshua Benton remarked, “just short of setting the place on fire, being bought by Digital First is about the worst outcome possible. It’s less the Herald being saved than the Herald being stripped for parts.”[43] Since the purchase, NewsGuild-CWA representation has dropped from 108 to 25 workers.[44] The paper laid off another 11 workers in late June 2020.
  • Alden bought The Reading Eagle from a bankruptcy court in May 2019 and proceeded to terminate the entire workforce (221 employees), requiring employees to re-apply for their jobs.[45] (140 jobs were retained.[46]) Then in April 2020, 19 workers at the Eagle were laid off.[47]
  • In February 2020, MediaNews Group (MNG) bought a small family chain of 11 papers in Minnesota, most of them weeklies. In April, MNG announced it would close the Eden Prairie News and Lakeshore Weekly News in Minnesota.

In addition to cutting jobs ruthlessly, Alden also uses the assets of newspapers it buys to enrich itself. In April 2019, The Washington Post reported that Alden took the unusual step in 2013 of investing nearly $250 million in assets from MNG Enterprises employees’ pensions into hedge funds that Alden controlled.[53] Alden’s actions with regard to MNG Enterprises employees’ pensions may have run afoul of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Department of Labor launched an investigation.[54]

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