Magazine article Editor & Publisher

All of King Features Moving to Florida by the End of 1999

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

All of King Features Moving to Florida by the End of 1999

Article excerpt

King Features -- the syndication powerhouse based in New York City since its 1915 founding -- plans to move completely to Florida by the end of next year.

Previously, the Hearst Corp.-owned King was going to shift editorial, production and shipping operations to Orlando while keeping sales, marketing and creative development people including top executives - in New York (E&P, July 18, 1998, p. 30).

Kingsyn Employees Association president Jerry Craft said the KEA, since learning this summer that 32 of its 51 members could be laid off, has fought to have staffers and management treated more equally. Ideally, this would have meant saving as many jobs as possible - and keeping all of King in New York.

Now, he added: "We're surprised and disappointed. This is a slap in the face for everybody."

When asked whether he thought the total Florida move is a corporate or syndicate decision, Craft replied, "In my opinion, this is completely Hearst-driven."

King president Larry Olsen declined to answer the same question. "It doesn't matter," he said. "It's a decision that's been made and we're now going to move on."

Why move everything to Florida? In a statement, King said New York has become "increasingly expensive," many of the syndicate's creators no longer live in the New York area, today's technology makes it possible to "conduct business anywhere," and the presence of Universal Studios and Disney gives King a "creative talent pool" in the Orlando area.

As previously announced, King's editorial, production and shipping will be handled by the Hearst-owned, Orlando-based Reed Brennan Media Associates the pagination/editing company founded by two former Tribune Media Services executives in 1994. King will handle other functions from its headquarters in a different Orlando building.

The syndicate's current 89-person work force will be reduced, but Olsen said he does not yet know what the final total will be. Some executives and employees may opt not to go to Florida, while the aforementioned 32 staffers may be laid off. These fired people could theoretically apply for work at Reed Brennan, but would have no guarantee of employment and, if hired, would lose their King seniority.

About a quarter of KEA's members have been with King for over 20 years, said Craft, who added that many have close ties with creators.

Craft himself is both a King comic art department staffer (a job he's expecting to lose) and cartoonist who does "Mama's Boyz" for the syndicate's weekly service.

Negotiations between KEA and King management aren't over yet. The two sides are discussing matters such as severance and how much training soon-to-be-fired King employees will be expected to give their Reed Brennan replacements. The next negotiating session is scheduled for Oct. 21.

"We haven't set a deadline, but we do want to get it resolved quickly," said Olsen.

Layoffs are slated to go into effect no later than the end of 1998, even though King won't move to Orlando until several months later.

One reason for the earlier staff cuts is that King is vacating its 216 E. 45th St. office at the end of 1998, according to director of advertising and public relations Ted Hannah. The syndicate will then consolidate operations in its other New York office, at 235 E. 45th, before leaving that building for Orlando sometime in 1999.

King is one of the biggest syndicates in the country. It has about 150 individually distributed features, including editorial cartoonists such as Jim Borgman; columnists such as Dr. …

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