There you go again, Paul.
Trifling with the truth about the newspaper industry.
Paul, of course, is Paul Godfrey, CEO of Postmedia, the newspaper chain that just announced the merger of newsrooms in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa and the laying-off of 90 more staff.
The move has sparked a firestorm of criticism and Godfrey seems to be out on a speaking blitz arguing his case. One of the major bones of contention has been the virtual control of the company by New York hedge funds, Golden Tree in particular.
Godfrey spoke Monday to the C.D. Howe Institute and has given separate interviews.
There is one major point he has been emphasizing, to what end is not clear. Here’s how he put it.
“If it wasn’t for Golden Tree Asset Management, this chain may not be in existence today, because there were no Canadians who stepped up to buy (the papers).… People should be happy that at least somebody (bought) the newspapers) and kept a lot of people employed.”
What he is referring to is the process in 2010 when a bankrupt CanWest was forced to put its big city newspapers on the trading block.
The New York hedge funds, with Godfrey as their front, eventually won the day.
Were there any Canadian bidders? You bet.
How about Torstar, of which I am the Chair of the Board? And we are Canadian.
We submitted a bid of approximately $800 million and in fact, we announced so publicly on May 3, 2010.
I did a Google search and there were at least 20 stories in the Globe, Marketing Magazine, Canoe, J-Source, and the Star about our bid. It was public knowledge.
And how about Birch Hill Equity Partners, another Canadian firm?
Led by David Samuel and involving former Osprey owner and longtime newspaper proprietor Michael Sifton, Birch Hill also put in a bid. Again, everyone in the process knew about this.
So where were you, Paul?
And what about those subsequent chats you and I have had about that process and what unfolded? Have you forgotten?
And while we’re at it, what about your bald statement that Golden Tree is only an equity player and not involved in the company’s staggering debt?
Postmedia’s own Management Information Circular, posted on its website, states clearly, “Golden Tree and certain investment funds to which it serves as an investment adviser own Variable Voting Shares and a portion of the first-lien (debt) and second-lien (debt.)”
Seems pretty clear to me.
In the same speech, Godfrey attacks the Star’s tablet initiative, which is entirely his prerogative. And let him make his case about the state of the industry. And let him attack us.
But get your facts right, Paul.
I think that’s the least we should expect from the CEO of a newspaper chain.
– John Honderich is chair of the board of Torstar Corp. He is a former publisher and editor of the Toronto Star