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LA Times suffered ‘catastrophic’ COVID losses

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The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union Tribune suffered a revenue loss of more than $50 million in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic squeezed its already struggling business, an executive for the parent company California Times told staffers on Thursday.

In a virtual town hall meeting Thursday, California Times president Chris Argentieri, said the two papers experienced a “catastrophic drop in revenue for the company north of $50 million on top of a business that was already using cash and not producing cash,” according to TheWrap, which obtained a recording of the meeting.

The $50 million loss figure confirms The Post’s reporting on March 23. A California Times spokeswoman said the company does not wish to comment on the Thursday meeting, where Argentieri predicted tough times ahead.

“What we saw in 2020 was [an] acceleration of trends that we were well aware of and have been aware of, really, for far more than a decade,” Argentieri said, according to the recording obtained by The Wrap. “We won’t go back, particularly in print advertising, to where we were.”

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He said print advertising was hardest hit but that digital advertising and print circulation also contributed to the loss.

The $50 million revenue loss follows a reported $20 million loss in 2019 after owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong undertook a major hiring surge in the newsroom and moved the HQ from downtown LA to El Segundo near the LA Airport.

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The company’s financial pain gave rise to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal that Soon-Shiong has been looking to sell one or both papers. He has claimed the report isn’t accurate.

Despite pay reductions, furloughs and three weekly papers being shuttered and eventually sold early in the pandemic, the company managed to add 163 full-time people in 2020, Nancy Antoniou, the company’s chief human resources executive said.

Earlier this week it emerged that the California Times had secured a $10 million federal loan as coronavirus relief, which Argentieri said would be used primarily to pay for staff and benefits.

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The paper, which has been roiled by racial tension and diversity issues over the past year, is also taking aggressive measures to correct that imbalance, execs told staffers Thursday.

Antoniou said majority of the new hires were nonwhite with 24 percent identifying as Hispanic or Latino, 20 percent identifying as Asian, 13 percent identifying as Black or African American, and about 5 percent identifying as having two or more races. She said about 34 percent of the new staffers were white, while roughly 4 percent declined to identify.

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