The Columbian is out of bankruptcy
Publishing company emerges from Chapter 11 process
Originally published February 5, 2010 at 11:11 a.m., updated February 5, 2010 at 5:07 p.m.
Previously: On May, 1, 2009, The Columbian Publishing Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors.
What’s new: The publishing company emerged from bankruptcy with a reorganized business plan on Friday.
What’s next: Publisher Scott Campbell said his family-owned newspaper is moving ahead on positive financial footing.
The Columbian Publishing Co. has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and expects to move forward on a more positive financial footing, Publisher Scott Campbell, said Friday.
Judge Paul Snyder approved the bankruptcy reorganization plan, which was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tacoma. Campbell announced the news to Columbian employees Friday morning.
“I feel confident that we have the excellent opportunity to capitalize on our strengths,” he said. “This community deserves to have a locally owned newspaper."
Snyder approved a plan worked out over the past nine months between The Columbian and its creditors that turns a $35 million six-story office building in downtown Vancouver over to Bank of America and allows certain other creditor groups to be paid back most of the total $25.27 million owed them.
The more than two-year-long ordeal had Campbell, his family and the publishing company’s top management grappling with the worst downturn in the newspaper business since the 1930s’ Great Depression.
With ad revenue in free fall in early 2008, Campbell cut operating costs with three rounds of layoffs and by year’s end pulled newspaper operations out of four floors of his new office building and back to a former downtown location. The publishing company then sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors on May 1, as 2009 revenue remained weak across all departments. The publishing company now operates at 701 W. Eighth St. where 255 people produce The Columbian daily newspaper and operate online at www.columbian.com.
“We are thankful to be done with this process,” Campbell said . “We see the economy getting a little better, our circulation stabilizing and we are modestly profitable. I am very happy to be in our ‘classic’ Eighth Street building. It suits our needs for the future.”
The bankruptcy agreement settles debt owed to Bank of America both by the publishing company and by Downtown Vitality Partners, a separate entity owned by Campbell and his family to construct the office building at 415 W. Sixth St. south of Esther Short Park. Columbian signage was removed from the Sixth Street building last week.
“By handing the building back to the bank, the debt is settled for both The Columbian and DVP,” Campbell said. “We still see the building as an asset to the community with its presence on the park and hope to see a large employer some day occupy it.”
Campbell said that while there have been lots of rumors about possible building tenants, he knows of no new tenants at this time.
With the bankruptcy settlement, Campbell will continue to own a sprawling building and five-acre site at 701 W. Eighth St. and a smaller building and parcel at 615 W. Sixth St., south of the Columbian site. The smaller property has an assessed value of $2.25 million, which, if sold, would go to the creditors account. No sale is planned.
The publishing company also owns the weekly Camas-Washougal Post-Record newspaper and its site at 425 N.E. Fourth Avenue in Camas.
Campbell described the newspaper’s recent business experience as “riveting.”
“If I had to do it again, I would not have chosen to get into the real estate development business,” he said.
Campbell is optimistic about the future of local news gathering and its distribution to readers both in print and online.
“There’s a future for the print-Web combination,” he said. “The Columbian print version has 100,000 readers a day. That’s a phenomenally big market and valuable to advertisers and to our readers.”
He said the publishing company’s survival over the past nearly two years is due to community support and to the “hard work and sacrifice” of Columbian employees.
“We have been able to accomplish our restructuring without furloughs or across-the-board pay cuts, and thanks to the hard work of our people here, we have come through this incredibly difficult process together,” Campbell said.