Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Somebody Call Louie Anderson!

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Somebody Call Louie Anderson!

Article excerpt

Freedom plays the family feud

Two opposing combatants in the fight for the hearts and minds of the Freedom Communications Inc. shareholders who will decide the company's future ownership structure sometime after an Aug. 10-11 meeting agree on at least one thing: Freedom is "a jewel."

Samuel C. Wolgemuth, Freedom CEO and president, and Christopher Shaw, a London-based investment banker who is seeking to broker a sale of the company, both used gemological metaphors in describing the family-owned media giant -- and with good reason.

Founded in 1950 by the rock-ribbed libertarian R.C. Hoiles and headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Freedom has been valued at between $1 billion and $2 billion. With The Orange County Register in Santa Ana as its flagship, Freedom is ranked No. 12 in daily circulation among all U.S. newspaper companies and No. 4 among those privately held, according to the Newspaper Association of America's Facts About Newspapers. Freedom owns 28 dailies, 37 weeklies, eight network- affiliated broadcast TV stations, and related Web operations.

By all accounts, this diamond's luster clouded a bit in 2001. "Freedom lost $94 million before taxes and $64 million after taxes last year because of one-time losses on discontinued magazine and Internet investments," the Register reported Thursday. "Operating income was $88 million." Overall, Freedom had sales of about $760 million, according to several sources.

This year, Wolgemuth told E&P, the company has rebounded nicely, with "two record quarters" -- in terms of year-over-year improvements -- leading to a 41% boost in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization for the first half. …

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