Star owner GateHouse offers voluntary severance

ROCKFORD – GateHouse Media, the corporate owner of the Rockford Register Star and more than 120 daily newspapers across the U.S., announced to its staff Tuesday a voluntary severance offer for newsroom employees.

In an internal email from GateHouse Media CEO Kirk Davis, the company lays out the plan which would see employees begin to exit its rolls as soon as Sept. 16.

“Today GateHouse Media is announcing a Voluntary Severance Offer,” the email states. “The action supports ongoing efforts across our organization to reduce costs. While we continue to make progress toward our goal of being revenue positive by 2018 and year-to-date our revenue has improved and outperformed our industry peers, we continue to see revenue declines and must align our expenses accordingly.”

Eligible employees are asked to register their interest in the severance program no later than Monday, Aug. 29. From there, the company says it will make its final decision on which employees to extend offers to by Sept. 7.

Employees with less than 20 years of service with the company are eligible to receive one week of base pay for every year of service, up to 13 weeks. Employees with 20 years or more time with GateHouse will be capped at 17 weeks of pay under the plan.

“For employees who ultimately participate in the VSO, their last date of employment will generally occur on Friday, September 16, 2016,” says the email.

Union leaders for affected newsrooms have been contacted about their participation in the severance program, the email states.

GateHouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Sept. 2013, citing $433.7 million in assets against $1.3 billion in debt. The planned bankruptcy event saw GateHouse emerge under a new holding company, New Media Investment Group Inc., in Nov. 2013.

GateHouse formerly employed more than 65 persons at its Rockford-based Design House and Community Content House, which opened in 2012. Both departments were moved to Austin, Texas during 2014 under a newly created Center for News and Design.

The closing of the Rockford offices was announced in early-2013 but ultimately took more than a year to see all operations moved to Texas. Tuesday’s email from Kirk indicates that design center employees are excluded from the severance plan.

A call to GateHouse for comment was not immediately returned. We will update this story if comment is provided.

–Staff report

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