Executive: E.V. Tribune sale still possible, closure 'a good marketing tool'

By Nick R. Martin | November 19th, 2009 | 8:35 pm | 2 Comments »

Mark McEachen

One of the top executives of California media giant Freedom Communications told employees of the East Valley Tribune today that the newspaper’s pending demise could be “a good marketing tool” to try to sell it at the last minute.

Chief financial officer Mark McEachen made the comments in a conference call with Freedom’s employees company-wide. They were posted on the Tribune’s website late this afternoon.

But the executive also warned employees not the get their hopes up, saying: “We remain on track to close by the end of the year,”according to the web posting.

McEachen also confirmed rumors that someone made an offer to buy the Mesa newspaper before Freedom declared bankruptcy on Sept. 1. Freedom didn’t bite, though, because the unnamed person wanted the company to pay him to take over the business, McEachen said. The posting offered no other details of the offer.

The Freedom media chain, which also owns the Ahwatukee Foothills News in Phoenix and the Daily News Sun in Sun City, is currently under federal bankruptcy protection after racking up more than $1 billion in debt.

It announced in September it would try to sell the Tribune and its other local papers for some quick cash. However on Nov. 2, after no acceptable buyer had emerged, Freedom said it would close the Tribune by Dec. 31 and lay off the remaining 140 employees. The company said it would keep its other Phoenix-area newspapers alive.

McEachen told employees Freedom still has “interest” from people wanting to buy the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, however he described most of the parties as “bottom feeders,” according to the Tribune’s website.

McEachen is a fairly new addition to the Freedom executive staff. He was hired May 27 after serving as the CFO of computer hard drive maker Fabrik. When he joined the company, he issued a written statement commending the Freedom’s “powerful portfolio of media and information products.”

“I believe Freedom has a tremendous potential,” he said at the time, “and I look forward to working with the executive team to help the company realize that potential.”