Hearne: Beleaguered Head of Star Parent Company McClatchy Hits The Road

Go figure…

In a curiouser and curiouser unfolding of events, the head of the Kansas City Star‘s parent company McClatchy is stepping down to take the top spot at The Associated Press.

Which comes as a bit of a head scratcher.

Because prestigious as heading up "one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering" as the AP describes itself may be, it’s hard to imagine Gary Pruitt taking down the kind of coin he has at McClatchy at a not-for-profit.

For example Forbes pegged Pruitt’s "total compensation" for 2009 at $3,753,229.00.

Now add to that the value of Pruitt’s 2009 "unexercised options, currently exercisable at $6,788,500.00" and it’s clear that the one time McClatchy Golden Boy has been in the chips big time, despite spearheading the most disastrous financial move in his company’s 155 year history.

That being, of course, the purchase of then Star parent Knight Ridder in 2006.

Pruitt bet McClatchy’s farm on Knight Ridder and the Star at exactly the wrong time, paying $40 a share before riding the stock down last year to just over a buck. McClatchy’s stock has since rebounded to around $3 a share, but bear in mind it was trading as high as $63 in 2005.

Last October I sorted through how bad things were at McClatchy under Pruitt in a story headlined, "How Long Can Star Czar Keep Job With News Company in Six Year Freefall?"

Speaking of the Associated Press, on March 12 it reported that, "McClatchy Co. says advertising revenue declined nearly 6 percent from a year ago, an improvement from a drop of about 10 percent during the first nine months of the year. However, ad revenue in January was down about 8 percent from the same month in 2011."

Which undoubtedly explains the unexpected recent round of layoffs, furloughs and cutbacks at the Star.

If Pruitt wasn’t on thin ice at McClatchy, it’s hard to imagine who was. And if he wasn’t feeling the heat from management, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’d pretty much had about as much fun sorting out the nightmare he created as he could stand and was looking for an out.

As for McClatchy, it appears the company’s had enough of golden boys and has fingered a bean counter to take Pruitt’s job. Patrick Talamantes, McClatchy’s vice president of finance and CFO will succeed Pruit in July.

Which brings us back to the curious side, given Talamantes pedigree was in broadcasting.

In other words, he was a radio dude in St. Louis.

One last thing; in the AP’s release describing Pruitt’s qualifications they cite his "acute business sense."

Right…

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13 Responses to Hearne: Beleaguered Head of Star Parent Company McClatchy Hits The Road

  1. Super Dave says:

    Hearne will this story mean anything to anyone other than you?

  2. harley says:

    hearne…if the print media continues this direction
    what will be the final conclusion…will there not be newspapers…saw kc star and
    usa todayhaving breakfast…small….how do they survive in a digital world.
    i read them yesteday morning and there was nothing…what would you do to
    rvive them….sad…i still enjoy reading the paper on sundays

  3. paulwilsonkc says:

    Harely, Im the demo Hearne calls reaching for the aarp card
    and I hate it too. My routine for years had been early morning coffee on Sunday at any misc coffee spot in the city with the Sunday NYT. Years. As I’ve said before, I’ve got more classics and first editions lining the book cases of my living room than I care to think about. I like the feel, smell and tactile event that comes from having it, holding it, reading it and a cup of coffee. I understand I can throw a NOOK in my backpack and take 5,000 books with me today. Problem is, I dont READ 5,000 books at a time. It’s like my iPod can hold 10,000 songs!! I dont have, want or need 10,000 SONGS!

    I understand the NOOK really does LOOK like you’re turning the page. But the problem with that is the reason I dont read a lot of Fiction, I cant delude myself into thinking Im turning the page, even though it looks like it. And the NOOK smells like Glazers bed side table, more rubber/plastic than BOOK, Nook.

    So there you have it. I DO have my AARP card because I think its FUNNY, not for the benefits. I’m one of the old fools, now, that you write about. And, my life will come to a violent end as I have all fours stretched across the front door of Rainy Day on the last day when they can no longer survive. I want my paper, I want my book. I get KC Magazine in its gorgeous digital format. I get several that way, but when Im designing art furniture pieces, getting ideas, again, like Glazer, i want to hold it in my hand, its where Im most comfortable. The magazine or book…. I mean…..

  4. Cliffy says:

    I understand how paul feels but I’ve gotten over it. My Kindle Fire is great. I have both the KC and StL newspapers at my fingertips every day, not to mention the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal. Our paper recycling bin takes a long, long time to fill up anymore and it’s mostly catalogs from shopping online.

    I didn’t read past the third paragraph of your article, Hearne. Boring. Does the guy have a first name?

  5. Walter says:

    Big news but on reflection not that surprising
    Pruitt is a longtime AP board member. And the AP CEO is a very prestigious job in the industry, a good career capper. Less money, maybe, but the dollars are still pretty big. Another point: while it’s true Mcclatchy has plunged, Pruitt has always been a favorite of his peers and Wall Street analysts and other companies have done worse (Tribune, Lee, WashPost). The AP is controlled by newspaper guys so they went w one of their own.

  6. John Altedork says:

    The company’s still making money, right?

    Right.

    The company got rid of a lot of dead wood, right?

    Right. Proof? Well, there’s kcconfidential.com…

    The company has the largest websites in its markets, right?

    Right.

    Therefore he couldn’t be characterized as beleaguered. The digital transition is a tough one. But they seem to be managing it pretty well given the circumstances.

    And what is Pruitt’s first name anyway? Bing?

  7. kcfred says:

    radio dude in st. louis?
    Hearne, facebooked my buddy Randy Raley about this “radio dude in St. Louis”.
    He’s been there since 85 and he’s …”never heard of him.”
    “If he was here, he was here for a cup of coffee…”

  8. hearne says:

    With all due respect…
    Googling is a lot quicker and arguably more accurate than contacting Randy for his recollections.

    For one thing, Raley wasn’t there nonstop since 1985 . Remember when he moved back to KC and did a show on KCFX for two years?

    Talamantes was with Sinclair and River City Broadcasting in St. Louis.

  9. Hearne says:

    Oh yeah…
    I think Randy owes you a cup of coffee

  10. Hearne says:

    As for Mr. Altedork…
    You wouldn’t by chance happen to be Star reader rep Derek Donovan with that thinly veiled alias would you?

    But never mind, let’s take a look at your argument.

    Pruitt makes a monumentally costly, near fatal decision to be the only newspaper company to bid on Knight Ridder. At a time when all of the other big newspaper guns knew the handwriting was on the wall and weren’t about to compound their growing, collective misery.

    McClatchy’s stock plunges from over $60 to barely a buck.

    Hundreds more journalists are laid off – not fired but released to try and stem the tide of red ink – because McClatchy had leveraged itself and had to make deeper cuts than it otherwise would have had to sans its huge debt.

    Included in the casualties were three of the newspaper’s highest read columnists and one of its top reporters Dan Margolies. Say what you will of the specifics of their leaving. For the past four years and to this day the prevailing feeling among Star staffers is they are skating on thin ice and with rare exception they have their ears to the ground for jobs with better long term prospects

    As for the “dead wood,” the Star tried to hire me back six weeks later to freelance the column but were not allowed by McClatchy because I took the severance payout in 2009 instead of 2008. I think you can guess why I’m not back there now after reporting on DUIs, assaults, jail time, etc. for some of the top editors and staff.

    McClatchy’s having one of the better Web sites is a plus but it doesn’t come close to undoing the gaffe of buying Knight Ridder and the financial free fall and nightmare that’s ensued. A condition evidenced by continued earnings declines, layoffs, furloughs, etc.

    Just for the fun of it, why don’t you sign your real name? This is mine

  11. kcfred says:

    hearne, sorry
    Patrick J. Talamantes, 46, has been vice president, finance, and chief financial officer of McClatchy since April 2001. Prior to joining McClatchy, he was with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., a television broadcasting company, from 1996 to 2001, and served the last two years as chief financial officer. Mr. Talamantes was treasurer of River City Broadcasting LP, a broadcasting company located in St. Louis, from 1995 to 1996, and spent nine years in various banking positions with Chemical Bank of New York

    He was a St. Louis radio guy for one year, tops. That’s a cup of coffee in my book.

  12. harley says:

    the internet job killer
    we can figure out how many jobs the internet has killed…and how many more will be ending because we
    have the internet.
    newspapers will become dinosaurs…radio will become extinct…noone will watch traditional tv’s in their
    homes….no more brick and mortars…we’ll set upi web cams and watch comedy…
    we’ll eliminiate life as we know it…
    and we’ll be less for it…because we won’t get the chance to see and hear and feel life…we won’t
    be able to walk and laugh with a crowd of people…we’ll only have that tiny box we carry around to
    take total control of our lives.
    Now…if they invented a way for the internet to verticut and seed my lawn…i’m in…

  13. George Wilson says:

    Hearne has a point
    Looking at the McClatchy financials, there’s plenty to be concerned about, positive net profit or not. Like an almost 5 to 1 Debt to Ebitda ratio. Or a third of their total assets being goodwill. Or how about retained earnings approaching minus $2 billion. It is true that they have made money and brought down debt the past few years, but like many media companies, they’ve done it by cutting costs faster than the revenue has declined. You can only do that for so long. I’d have to see their financials from prior to the Knight Ridder acquisition to know how good or bad that transaction was. But everything I’ve read about it and the reaction equity investors had to it suggests it wasn’t well received.

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