By the edhat staff
The latest bankruptcy filing documents show the recently shuttered Santa Barbara News-Press’ holding company, Ampersand Publishing, owes $5.13 million to creditors.
Wendy McCaw, the sole owner of the publishing company, owes employees, vendors, utility companies, labor dispute settlements, and subscribers, but the biggest debt is to herself, reports Giana Magnoli.
Ampersand Publishing fired its News-Press staff and filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy that governs the process of liquidation under U.S. law. on July 21 in the U.S. Central District of California Bankruptcy Court located at 1415 State Street, a building that McCaw owns.The initial court filing listed the companies assets as less than $50,000, liabilities between $1-10 million, and owed 200-999 creditors.
The historic building at 715 Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara and the printing press building at 725 S. Kellogg Ave in Goleta were transferred to separate companies owned by McCaw in 2014.
In a document filed earlier this month, McCaw states Ampersand Publishing has a little over $500 in the bank with $116,000 in property such as furniture, computers, and vehicles. The paper’s archives and printing presses are listed with unknown value.
Just a few of the creditors include about 800 subscribers who never received subscription refunds, $2.2 million to former employees as part of a National Labor Relations Board judgement, $176,000 to Southern California Edison, $34,000 to Santa Barbara County, and $15,000 to the city of Santa Barbara.
A list of six separate debts were also listed to organizations and limited liability corporations (LLCs) that belong to McCaw or co-publisher Arthur Von Wiesenberger that totaled a little more than $2.15 million.
The News-Press greceived a gross revenue of $2.97 million last year and received $1.1 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program loans during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to public records.
Last month former Managing Editor Dave Mason wrote an email to staff stating, “I have some bad news. Wendy [McCaw] filed for bankruptcy on Friday. All of our jobs are eliminated, and the News-Press has stopped publishing. They ran out of money to pay us. They will issue final paychecks when the bankruptcy is approved in court.”
Last October, we reported the News-Press would stop delivering papers to its subscriber’s homes and instead would issue vouchers to redeem at select locations. Then in April we reported the dwindling staff of the Santa Barbara News-Press had vacated the historic downtown building at 715 Anacapa Street and announced moving all of its administrative operations, including its newsroom and advertising and circulation services, to the Goleta printing plant.
In June the paper announced a pause on all printing and a focus on digital news. A note was issued on the paper’s front page stating the printing editions will be temporarily unavailalbe due to “power issues” with their printing plant at 725 S. Kellogg Ave. in Goleta. Weeks later it was stated the online-only format would be permanent.
The Santa Barbara News-Press began printing as a weekly paper, The Santa Barbara Post in 1868, and after an acquisition in 1932 and a merger was renamed the News-Press. The respected paper won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1962 under the tutelage of T.M. Storke. The paper was sold in 1964 before being sold again to The New York Times in 1984.
The paper’s current owner and alleged billionaire living in Hope Ranch, Wendy P. McCaw, purchased the paper in 2000 for a reported $110 million. In 2006, controversy swirled the once notable publication as editors and writers resigned with claims of McCaw interferring in the newsroom.
More reporters and staffers were fired, or resigned, leading to numerous lawsuits and an all-out boycott of the paper by the majority of Santa Barbara residents. In 2008 a feature-length documentary titled “Citizen McCaw” played before a sold-out crowd at the Arlington Theatre.
Former News-Press journalists, Melinda Burns and Dawn Hobbs, penned an opinion piece in 2020 on McCaw’s “abuse of power.” They reported an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board ordered McCaw to pay $2 million to the employee union and nearly 50 newsroom employees, in restitution for labor law violations going back a dozen years. This cost was included in the list of debtors.
It’s unclear what will happen to the flagship building and parking lot at 715 Anacapa Street that’s believed to still be owned by McCaw, although an edhat reader informed us the parking lot has recently begun renting out parking spots.
A meeting for creditors is scheduled for September 7, 2023.