Reading Eagle issues layoff notice; closure ‘possible, not probable’

The company said more than 200 employees could be laid off as a result of the company’s potential closure in June, but the company hopes – and expects – that won’t happen.

The company has 221 eligible employees for purposes of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN, Act, with 209 full-time and 12 part-time. They include workers at the Reading Eagle and WEEU 830 AM.

The company filed for bankruptcy in March; however it is trying to find a buyer that would keep the media company afloat.

“Reading Eagle Company does not concede it is required to comply with WARN’s notice requirements at this time,” Jennie Priest, executive director of human resources, said in a statement. “Nonetheless, we wanted our employees to be aware of the protections WARN offers in the event of a mass layoff, which, as of the date of the notice, is only possible, not probable.”

The deadline for any potential investor to bid on the company is 5 p.m. today, May 15.

An auction will be held on Friday if there is more than one bidder.

The broker handling the company’s potential sale – Dirks, Van Essen, Murray & April of Santa Fe, New Mexico – had previously stated multiple parties were interested.

In an interview with Lehigh Valley Business, Owen Van Essen, said he had met with several potential buyers.

“The market is fairly robust right now,” Van Essen said. “There are a lot of transactions taking place.”

Among those expressing interest was the company’s CFO, Shawn Moliatu, who was attempting to assemble a group of local investors who would keep the media company’s ownership in the community.

Other competitors could include equity firms that are on a newspaper “buying spree,” Jon Bekken, a communications professor at Reading’s Albright College, said in a recent interview.

He named Digital First and Gatehouse Media (which owns Lehigh Valley Business) as investors that might be interested in a paper like the Reading Eagle. Neither company returned calls for comment on any potential interest in the Reading Eagle.

The Reading Eagle Co. said it did lay off six employees last week.

Stacy Wescoe
Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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