Morris sells billboard company as part of newspaper group restructuring

Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 4:58 PM
Last updated 7:34 PM
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Augusta-based Morris Communications Co. sold a majority stake in its billboard advertising company today to a Washington, D.C.-based private equity investment firm as part of the debt restructuring plan for its newspaper group.

ACON Investments LLC bought Fairway Outdoor for an undisclosed amount. Fairway will be combined with Magic Media, ACON’s outdoor advertising company, to form Fairway Magic Outdoor.

“While the sale was consummated in conjunction with the financial restructuring of our newspapers, we are excited about partnering with ACON to more fully exploit the growth opportunities available in the outdoor advertising industry,” said William S. Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications.

Morris Publishing Group, which owns The Augusta Chronicle and 12 other daily newspapers, is also a subsidiary of Morris Communications.

Morris Publishing has been negotiating with two groups of lenders: A group of bondholders that hold a portion of approximately $100 million in unsecured bonds and a group of major banks that hold approximately $136.5 million in secured debt.

When the restructuring is completed, $415 million in debt will be reduced to $126.5 million, the company said.

A majority of the holders of the $278.5 million in bonds has agreed to support an offer to exchange the bonds for new notes totally $100 million.

In a separate agreement, the $136.5 million in secured debt will be reduced by $110 million. Morris Publishing officials said available cash balances will be used to pay off the remaining $26.5 million.

In order to complete the deal, the consent of 99 percent of bondholders is needed.

“Failing to achieve that, Morris Publishing will seek to consummate the deal through a prepackaged plan of reorganization, seeking approval from the bankruptcy court,” the company said on its Web site, www.morrisrestructures.com. “The company would, in that event, expect to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings without any perceptible change in operations or adverse effect on employees, vendors or customers.”

The company has the support of 75 percent of those bondholders now.

An affiliate of ACON will own $19.7 million of the remaining debt, according to a Morris Publishing press release. Morris will maintain a minority stake in Fairway Magic Outdoor.

Fairway Magic Outdoor will control more than 19,500 billboard and poster displays in 22 states.

“The combined company will have the increased scale and balance sheet strength needed to prosper in the current macro-economic climate, but more importantly, it will be able to continue providing customers with a cost-effective advertising medium for them to bolster and improve their bottom line as the economy turns,” said Ken Brotman, a founding partner of ACON.

Founded in 1996, ACON and its principals have managed over $1.5 billion of capital.

Comments (19) Add comment
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jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 10/15/09 - 06:07 pm
0
0
LOL they are DESPERATELY

LOL they are DESPERATELY trying to stay afloat this is one of the worst newspapers in the south. I suppose if they weren't so BACKWARDS and ONESIDE leaning maybe they would be selling more papers in Augusta.

charliemanson
1
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charliemanson 10/15/09 - 08:06 pm
0
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Jack: Totally agree.

Jack: Totally agree.

142
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Dan White 10/15/09 - 08:44 pm
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I love the Chronicle and hope

I love the Chronicle and hope that Billy Morris can work out his money problems. All print media is suffering.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 10/15/09 - 09:35 pm
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LOL @ love the chronicle,

LOL @ love the chronicle, greenjacket you are one of a few who do. *YIKES*

AnotherPerspective
0
Points
AnotherPerspective 10/15/09 - 09:43 pm
0
0
It amazes me the people who

It amazes me the people who read The Chronicle, but are so quick to bash it. If you don't like it, don't read it. By the way, how many of you who post comments actually pay for the newspaper? It's like going into a restaurant everyday, eating its food for free and then complaining about it. Can someone explain this to me? Look at the ones who are critical and you will see they are the ones who read everyday. Hmmmm.... Interesting.

MrAlwaysRight
0
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MrAlwaysRight 10/15/09 - 10:33 pm
0
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I'd like to see the Chronicle

I'd like to see the Chronicle fail so hateful devils like Fruit won't get to enjoy causing the suffering they do daily. He'd probably explode from not being able to say those hateful things, because you KNOW he's not man enough to say them to a real white person.

MrAlwaysRight
0
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MrAlwaysRight 10/15/09 - 10:35 pm
0
0
AP: Fruitcake doesn't even

AP: Fruitcake doesn't even live in GA... he's a DC resident. Nuff said??

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 10/15/09 - 10:49 pm
0
0
I'd hate to see this paper

I'd hate to see this paper fail. One or more people in my family have subscribed to it for at least forty years and even the Augusta Herald, back in the day...

zcock
60
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zcock 10/15/09 - 10:49 pm
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The first thing I thought was

The first thing I thought was ACORN.... we would start seeing all kinds of weird ads going down the highway. But I miss read. You got to do what you got to do. More power to Will. I still say they should have started charging for this site a long time ago. A delivery subscription being free access to the site and make the non subscribers pay for access. They missed the boat along with all the other newspapers around the country.

my.voice
4867
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my.voice 10/15/09 - 10:57 pm
0
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Get with the program Billy!

Get with the program Billy! Go electronic! You are giving the news away for free! Who buys paper any more?

MrAlwaysRight
0
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MrAlwaysRight 10/15/09 - 10:58 pm
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That is a great idea, Z.

That is a great idea, Z.

downgoesfrazier
0
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downgoesfrazier 10/16/09 - 06:25 am
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great reporting by Mr.

great reporting by Mr. Rausch---Carefully edited by Morris III & IV

MyChronicleUserAccount
0
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MyChronicleUserAccount 10/16/09 - 07:15 am
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downgoes for some reason I

downgoes for some reason I think most of that report must have been approved by the buyer ACON. Thats how it usually works, buyers don't want their names in papers unless they approve the wording :)

TechLover
15
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TechLover 10/16/09 - 07:38 am
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Billy desperately needs the

Billy desperately needs the taxpayers to build him more stuff that he can make money from. He was counting on that revenue from the horse barn, and TEE Center. Unfortunately, if they try to charge for the electronic version, readership will fall even further, and they'll receive less revenue for the ads that are sold online. There are plenty of sites for receiving national news and people would just turn to the TV stations or other sites for local. I live in the country so having the paper delivered is not even an option. They will mail it, woohoo. Nothing like reading about news in the afternoon after you've gotten the info from other sources. About the only recourse is to have ads without a skip option so that people would be forced to at least look at them, much like the free 411 option on the phone. That way you could charge more for the ad than just a side bar that goes unnoticed. It's a bad time to be in the newspaper or magazine business.

Niko Mahs
83
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Niko Mahs 10/16/09 - 08:08 am
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It's the beginning of the end

It's the beginning of the end for this Communication company. When you spew junk then you lose big time.

corgimom
33220
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corgimom 10/16/09 - 11:57 am
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The Internet has just about

The Internet has just about wiped out print newspapers. It was going to happen eventually.

Justthefacts please
0
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Justthefacts please 10/16/09 - 08:18 pm
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You can bet that the critics

You can bet that the critics of the Chronicle and Billy Morris have had their names in the paper before, and not in the positive stories. I am betting on their names appearing in the police bookings. That's the way it goes with these people. Let me remind them of an old saying attributed to Mark Twain. Twain, who probably is unfamiliar to these idiots, once remarked that it was best to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. You idiots know who you are!

papadan
1
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papadan 10/16/09 - 09:36 pm
0
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I pay $20.00 a year to read

I pay $20.00 a year to read The True Citizen. 52 Issues

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 10/17/09 - 06:25 am
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JUSTTHEFACT, You can bet that

JUSTTHEFACT, You can bet that the critics of President Obama has contributed to a hate group before.Justthefacts, the fact is, you should have taken Mark Twain's advice and we never would have known, what a fool you are.

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