Freedom Communications Flips To Chapter 11

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Freedom Communications Holdings Inc and 49 affiliates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday, becoming the latest newspaper publisher to seek court protection from creditors.

Freedom Communications, which owns the Orange County Register in Southern California and more than 30 other daily newspapers and eight television stations, listed assets of $757 million and liabilities of $1.077 billion as of July 31, 2009, according to court documents filed with federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.

Freedom will file its reorganization plan within 45 days, according to an affidavit. Freedom employs 5,076 people.

Two private equity firms, Blackstone Group (BX.N) and Providence Equity Partners, agreed to invest in Freedom in October 2003 and closed the deal in May 2004. Blackstone owns 28.8 percent of the common and preferred stock, according to a court document, while Providence owns 19.2 percent of the common and preferred.

Freedom is the latest newspaper publisher to file for bankruptcy protection following a sharp slump in advertising.

U.S. media group Tribune Co (TRBCQ.PK), publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, filed for Chapter 11 in December 2008, while Philadelphia Newspapers, which publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, filed in February 2009.

The case is In Re: Freedom Communications Holdings Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 09-13046

(Reporting by Phil Wahba, Tom Hals and Chelsea Emery in New York, Santosh Nadgir in Bangalore; Additional reporting by Megan Davies in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)