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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Advertiser employees given temporary job offers as Star Bulletin prepares takeover

BY Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Most of the Honolulu Advertiser's 600 employees were given job offers today with a management company that will run the paper until it is taken over by the Honolulu Star Bulletin.

Star Bulletin owner David Black announced in February his intention to buy the Advertiser from Gannett Co. and either sell the Bulletin or merge it with the Advertiser. A merger would likely result in mass layoffs at the Advertiser.

Black hopes to close the sale as early as April 25, according to a letter given to Advertiser employees.

Black retained HA Management Inc. of Laguna Beach Calif. to run the Advertiser while he waits regulatory approval to complete his purchase of the state's largest newspaper. HA Management, which was formed last week, is led by Glenn Rogers, president and CFO, and Chief Operating Officer Paul deVille.

Rogers is CEO of Seattle-based CarDomain Network, which operates a Website for auto enthusiasts, and he was previously chief operating officer for new media at Black Press Ltd., David Black's company.

In 2000, Rogers served as a consultant for Black when he acquired the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek.

Previously, deVille served as CEO of local fashion retailer Hilo Hattie's parent company, Pomare Ltd., and before that was president and CEO of locally based Persis Corp. He was vice president and CFO at Persis prior to 1993 when the company owned The Advertiser.

Rogers could not be reached for immediate comment.

HA Management's offer letter to Advertiser employees included pay cuts for some staffers and stipulated that all employees would work "at will," meaning they could be fired at any time.

Dennis Francis, the Star-Bulletin's publisher, said the transition period is needed to complete the sales process for the Star-Bulletin and for the U.S. Justice Department and state Attorney General's office to complete their antitrust reviews of the company's purchase of the Advertiser.

The transition is also needed to assess the staffing levels and to interview employees, he said.

Black has put the Star-Bulletin up for sale to satisfy anti-trust concerns that the Justice Department and the state Attorney General's office may have.

At least two prospective buyers -- Texas private equity investor Brian Ferguson and a local group including state Sen. Sam Slom and Internet publisher Malia Zimmerman -- have submitted bids for the Star-Bulletin.

If Black is unable to sell the Star-Bulletin, he plans to merge the newspapers, in a move that will likely result in the loss of at least 150 jobs at the Star-Bulletin. The number of jobs that may be lost at the Advertiser as a result of a merger has not been disclosed but analysts said the Advertiser's job losses could exceed those at the Star-Bulletin.

Wayne Cahill, administrative officer of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, said he's still reviewing the job offers provided to Advertiser employees and had no immediate comment.

He said he's advising the company's employees not to sign their job offers until after the union's attorneys examines the offers.

Reach Rick Daysog at 525-8064 or rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com