Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Reader's Digest May Restructure

According to Bloomberg news, Reader's Digest may be considering a pre-packaged bankruptcy and have hired expert law firm Kirkland and Ellis to advise the company. Reader's Digest founded in 1922 and located north of New York city publishes magazines, books and audio products and operates numerous web sites. (The company is actually more web-savvy than most people probably give it credit for). The company was purchased for $2.4Billion by investor group Ripplewood Holdings in March 2007. Bloomberg also quotes a Moody's report from earlier this year that suggests the debt load of the company is unsustainable and also notes the lay-offs that Reader's Digest announced two weeks ago.

Moody’s said in a credit opinion Feb. 18 that Reader’s Digest’s capital structure appears “unsustainable” and may violate its covenants or restructure within the next year to 18 months. The company faces pressure on cash flow from declining demand for its print-based products and a drop in consumer spending, the ratings firm said. The company also has a high debt-to-EBITDA ratio, Moody’s said.

Reader’s Digest announced Jan. 28 it would eliminate about 8 percent of its 3,500 employees worldwide, citing a drop in consumer spending and magazine advertising in most markets. Reader’s Digest also said at the time it would require U.S. workers to take five days of unpaid time off in each of its 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, and suspend matching contributions to 401k retirement plans.

Restructurings, significant lay-offs and bankruptcies are coming fast and frequently in the media business, particularly newspapers and magazines. While many of these companies have few choices given their reliance on collapsing advertising revenues and their crushing debt loads, as a group, they do not appear to be addressing how their customers will interact with their content in three to four years time. Even if they get out of this immediate crisis by rearranging the deck chairs tomorrows customers may have moved on, content to interact and use content in fundamentally different ways.

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