The Los Angeles Times revealed late Tuesday that it is receiving a $10 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program — the maximum allowed under a series of federal bailouts designed to help businesses devastated by the pandemic.
LA Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and the paper’s president Chris Argentieri have scheduled a virtual town hall for Wednesday morning. While sources said the town hall will likely focus on plans for the fresh funds, some insiders speculated that the long, drawn-out search for new top editor also might be over.
Still, the rumor that has been fast spreading among the more than 500 newsroom staffers is that the editor search to replace Norm Pearlstine who stepped away in mid-December was nearing an end.
ESPN senior vice president Kevin Merida is seen by many in the newsroom as the frontrunner to replace Norm Pearlstine, who stepped away in mid-December. Merida did not return calls seeking comment, and a spokeswoman for the LA Times insisted that the editor search has not wrapped up yet.
“I can confirm that a decision has not been made yet” the spokeswoman said. “We’ve continued making progress on the search for the next editor and are in advanced rounds of interviews.”
When Soon-Shiong acquired the LA Times and San Diego Union Tribune from Tribune Publishing for $500 million in June 2018, the paper was throwing off $50 million a year in profit.
Sources estimate the papers are now losing at least $50 million a year.
Argentieri, who is president and chief operating officer of the California Times, the parent company, was quoted saying of the PPP funds, “The money will be used almost exclusively for employee-related costs, including payroll and employee benefits.; We lost tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue pretty much instantly in March 2020 and the pandemic continues to take a toll on the public health and take a toll economically. We are still operating with great uncertainty.”
The $10 million loan is the first PPP funds that the two papers have been able to tap into. The first round of PPP funds were targeted to businesses with under 500 employees. The two papers combined have about 1,400 employees, the LA Times reported.