Daily archives: August 20th, 2010

Will the Chicago Tribune Die in the Aftermath of the Bush Recession?

Okay, so take some points away from me for sensational headlines.

But, still, the Chicago Tribune, the only newspaper I faithfully subscribed to at the University of Notre Dame in the 80s, remains in trouble.

From the SUN-TIMES:

The Tribune Co.’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy has unraveled in the wake of an independent report concluding that talks leading up to the company’s 2007 leveraged buyout bordered on fraud, attorneys said Friday.

The report released last month by a court-appointed examiner forced Tribune and its creditors to rethink a settlement agreement that formed the basis of its reorganization plan.

Under Tribune’s plan, JPMorgan Chase and distressed-debt specialist Angelo, Gordon & Co. would have been among the new owners of the company’s media properties, which include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, other daily newspapers and 20 broadcast stations.

But attorneys told Delaware bankruptcy judge Kevin Carey on Friday that JPMorgan and Angelo Gordon had dropped out of the agreement, and that talks on a consensual reorganization plan had broken down.

"The debtor has tried mightily to bring the parties together," Tribune attorney James Conlan. "That has not happened."

Conlan also confirmed that Tribune had not been party to separate negotiations among its creditors.

The Tribune Co. sent a memo to employees saying the restructuring plan “is moving more slowly and has become noisier than we had hoped.” The memo, signed by Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels and Chief Operating Officer Gerry Spector, noted that all of the Tribune Co.’s media businesses are profitable, and that the company’s monthly operating report for July will show that its financial results are strong.

The memo thanked employees for their creativity, innovation and dedication, and urged them not to get distracted.

Look: I hope the paper survives. And I hope the news industry finally gets the guts to lock down its online content for subscribers only. Free online content is the killer, right now.

I hated it when the Pittsburgh Press went under. I really did. Even though I delivered the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from age 13 through the end of high school.

Competition is good. Competition is healthy. And I don’t want to be left with just one news company for the Chicagoland area.

But then, if they all go under, we’ll always have ENEWSPF.

I’m just sayin’.

Southland College Preparatory Charter High School Opens

Big day in Matteson, and for Dr. Blondean Davis.

The Southland College Preparatory High School is open for business.

From the Southtown Star:

Typical high school students wait four years before they march across stage, shake hands with the principal and accept that piece of paper that can make or break a future. The 125 students who opened Southland College Preparatory Charter High School on Thursday did it on the first day of the ninth grade.

"You are not only going to enter, you are going to graduate from college. That is the promise of Southland. That is our commitment to you," Southland CEO Blondean Davis told the students.

"You’re going to have this tangible thing called a quality education," Davis told the class Thursday. "You’re going to think about how, on the first day of Southland, (you) began this transformation."

Earlier in the day, Southland staffers cheered as the students from the Chicago-area’s only suburban charter high school spilled out of school buses. And as beaming parents snapped pictures of embarrassed students, some teenagers admitted they had reservations.

Southland has no football team, no mascot, no school colors. None of them envisioned freshman year would take place inside of Huth Middle School -the school’s temporary home while a larger building in Richton Park is renovated. And there is, of course, the issue of the mandatory uniforms and a school day that lasts until 5 p.m.

In short, it’s not what they pictured when they imagined their first day of high school.

While some private schools may be nervously watching this experiment, they needn’t worry much. Charter schools, by law, must admit students by lottery, randomly, not by ability, grades, or any other mechanism. Top student may still apply to Marian Catholic, the private college prep. school closest to this charter, or any others.

Best of luck to the students at the new charter!

Yet Another Bush Recession Casualty: Restaurants

As the nation still struggles to emerge from the Bush Recession and avoid a double-dip, we discover yet another industry suffering: restaurants (…and why, by the way, are my conservative friends hoping for a double-dip, exactly? They’re not rich, and they’re likely to end up in tents with the rest of us if we do double-dip. Are they that eager to see Obama and America fail???)

From the Chicago Tribune:

With consumers and businesses keeping a lid on expenses, more and more small and mid-size restaurants are throwing in their dish towels and closing up shop.

Southern California lost nearly a thousand more restaurants than it gained during the 12 months that ended in March, representing a net 2% drop that was twice the national average, according to the New York research firm NPD Group.

Nearly all the closings were among independently owned restaurants: small, family businesses that just couldn’t hold on as customers held back. Earlier in the year restaurants reported modest increases in business, but the jumps in sales were too little too late for many.

"We were going in reverse," said Ken Rausch, who last month made the wrenching decision to close his family’s 65-year-old San Gabriel Valley restaurant, Edward’s Steakhouse. The restaurant had weathered previous recessions, but this downturn drained the family’s resources — and showed few signs of letting up, Rausch said.

Other well-known haunts have also succumbed: Orso on 3rd Street near Robertson Boulevard, a trattoria popular with the entertainment crowd, closed last winter after a nearby movie studio laid off a big chunk of its employees; across the nation, Koo Koo Roo, Bennigan’s, Bakers Square, Tony Roma’s and other chains have shut dozens of locations.

Even in good times, the restaurant business is a difficult one. Many close simply because they fall out of fashion or favor, and most run on slim margins. But this downturn seems especially brutal.

We’ve lost a few in the south Chicagoland area, but many have survived, some developing creative ways to stay afloat. The Big Apple Pancake House in Chicago Heights opened its table tops to advertising.

I know: we eat too much in Chicago already. Still, it’s good to know that many places here have survived.

Still, nationwide, the trend is not good.

I’ll be George W., King of the "have-mores," is eating well, though.

Elvis Remains In The Building: Blagojevich Takes to TV

The mouth that won’t stop gabbing is starting another media blitz as the Summer of Blagojevich continues.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Beginning a weekend media blitz, Rod Blagojevich said this morning he will not take any plea deal from prosecutors, accused them of trying to criminalize political horse-trading and emphasized repeatedly that he had not been convicted of any of the corruption charges against him.

And he said the lone jury holdout against convicting him on major corruption counts confirmed his faith in God.

"I’ve always had a deep and abiding faith in God," he said on the "Today" show. "And when I look at that, it just confirms ‘Praise God.’ And I certainly thank her for her good judgment.

"If we put on a defense, I think we probably would have been acquitted" on every count, he  added.
He continued to insist he had done nothing wrong, saying prosecutors had captured him on tape only discussing "possibilities" with lawyers and political advisers. "Political horse-trading …. this is what they are trying to criminalize," he said.

He accused prosecutors of hypocrisy, saying they frequently make deals with convicted felons. "The very thing they charge me with, they should charge themselves with," he said.

Chiacgo’s ShoreBank Fails but Will Reopen as Urban Partnership Bank

From the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago-based ShoreBank, which for more than three decades made loans to South and West siders who might not have gotten financing elsewhere to buy homes, apartment buildings and start businesses, failed Friday. It had struggled for months to raise sufficient funds to stay afloat.

Its deposits and most of its assets were acquired by a consortium of major U.S. financial institutions and philanthropic groups and will reopen under the name Urban Partnership Bank.

ShoreBank was the 15th Illinois bank to fail this year and the 118th to be seized by federal and state regulators nationally. Its failure is expected to cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $367.7 million. The FDIC, which is funded by the banking industry, said it received only one bid for the bank.

The beat goes on.

Cops Say Man Ordered Dog to Bite Kids

All of this is alleged by police. Remember: innocent until proven guilty in this country.

From the Chicago Tribune:

A 48-year-old Des Plaines man was charged with disorderly conduct after he told his dog to attack neighborhood kids, authorities said.

A neighbor on Wednesday asked Roberto Cardona, of the 1300 block of Fargo Avenue, to stop commanding the German shepherd to assault children , police said. But Cardona, who had been drinking, started to yell, and attempted to provoke the neighbor into fighting, police said.

After police arrived, Cardona began to scream at the officers, reports said. Cardona told police that he was tired of the neighbors and would continue to tell his canine to attack them.