The sale to Chatham Asset Management does not bode well for its future
Sunday was a devastating day for Sacramento.
After 163 years of family ownership, the McClatchy Co., which publishes The Sacramento Bee and 29 other newspapers across the country, announced that Chatham Asset Management—a hedge fund that owns 80% of the company that publishes the National Enquirer—had made the winning bid to take over the bankrupt company.
For the last 31 years until the COVID-19 pandemic suspended print publication, Sacramento News & Review has been producing a weekly newspaper as an alternative to our city’s most powerful news source, the Bee. In Chico and Reno we also publish alternative weeklies, but in those cities we compete with newspapers owned by Media News and Gannett, two newspaper chains that may have been great at making money but not so good at providing solid local journalism.
McClatchy and The Sacramento Bee were different, remarkably different. The Bee was and is a good newspaper. Sure, we found fault with it at times, but it was a family disagreement.
Speaking as the owner of the News & Review, I have admiration for so many former Bee reporters and editors: Rick Rodriguez, Marjie Lundstrom, Dale Maharidge, R.E. Graswich, Tim Grieve, Stephen Magagnini, Andy Furillo and Fahizah Alim. Great work is currently being produced by Cathie Anderson, Tony Bizjak, Marcos Breton, Dale Kasler, Ryan Lillis, Jack Ohman, Sam Stanton and others. I would be happy to publish the work of such skilled journalists. Hell, I would be honored to do it.
Like opposing sports teams, the Bee and SN&R competed but loved the same game. It should be noted that during The Bee’s glory years, it was like the New York Yankees while we were fielding our team with the revenue of a minor league team in a small town. Nevertheless, we were delighted to play ball.
It breaks my heart that the new owner of the McClatchy chain is Chatham Asset Management. This is the hedge fund that owns most of American Media, the publisher of National Enquirer—yes, the same tabloid that paid a former Playboy model for her story about an alleged affair with Donald Trump, with the purpose of preventing it from ever being published, in order to help him win the presidency.
McClatchy’s CEO and President Craig Forman is trying to portray this bankruptcy proceeding as business as usual during this difficult time, saying in a press release: “We’re pleased that Chatham and the supportive secured first-lien creditors believe in our business and our mission and are helping to achieve these goals. Local journalism has never been more vital and we remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering on our mission and continuing to serve our communities.”
I swear, if Forman said it was going to be a sunny day, I would start looking for my umbrella. No, if Chatham’s leaders understood McClatchy’s mission, the day after they took over American Media, they would have immediately fired National Enquirer publisher and head scoundrel David Pecker. They would have issued an apology for the damage that they have done to our republic and be praying that there is not an afterlife overseen by a righteous judgmental Supreme Being. If Chatham founder Anthony Melchiorre shared McClatchy’s mission, he would not be having dinner with Donald Trump and David Pecker at the White House.
This is not business as usual. Chatham does not care about The Bee’s mission. Hopefully, Chatham will agree to sell McClatchy’s 30 papers to local buyers who actually do care about mission and do not make a mockery of journalism.
It is a sad day for Sacramento and McClatchy’s other 29 cities now that Chatham is the new owner of their proud and distinguished newspaper chain.
If you heard a strange sound on Sunday when the Chatham announcement was made, it was much admired editor and publisher C.K. McClatchy rolling over in his grave.
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.