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Morris Publishing files for bankruptcy protection

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[February 04, 2010]  AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Daily newspaper owner Morris Publishing Group said Tuesday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to lower its debt by approximately $288.5 million.

The privately held owner of daily newspapers such as The Augusta Chronicle and Savannah Morning News announced last week that it would file a "prepackaged" plan, preapproved by a majority of its creditors, in federal bankruptcy court by Tuesday.

The plan lowers Morris' overall debt to $126.5 million from about $415 million. The restructuring plan includes a bond exchange that would trade the company's existing unsecured debt for $100 million in new bonds -- erasing $178.5 million owed to creditors.


The exchange must be approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Georgia

Morris said about 93 percent of existing noteholders voted in support of the reorganization plan.

Newspapers have struggled during the recession as advertisers have pulled back on their spending and readers have increasingly shifted to online news. For privately owned Morris, the situation was more dire as it has also been burdened with debt mostly accumulated from its acquisition of newspapers in the 1990s.

Morris Publishing is a former subsidiary of Morris Communications LLC. A reorganization in January 2009 left Morris Communications as an affiliate of Morris Publishing Group, but no longer its parent company.

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The Morris newspaper chain started in the 1940s when William S. Morris Jr. purchased The Augusta Chronicle, where he began working as a bookkeeper in 1929. His grandson, William S. Morris IV, is Morris Publishing's CEO.

The company has newspapers in eight states -- Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, South Carolina and Texas -- as well as more than 60 non-daily newspapers and magazines. The Florida Times-Union is the company's largest newspaper, followed by The Augusta Chronicle and the Savannah Morning News.

Morris said it will still run all of its publications and Web sites during the restructuring, with all obligations to workers and vendors met in full.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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