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Final Sale of Phila. Newspapers Hung Up on Union Disputes

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Today was the day that new owners were scheduled to take over the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. But the immediate future of the media company remains uncertain.

inquirerdaily news chap 11 Final Sale of Phila. Newspapers Hung Up on Union Disputes

KYW’s Steve Tawa reports that all of the participants in the long-running bankruptcy proceeding are meeting privately today with the judge overseeing the Chapter 11 case.

For today’s scheduled close of sale, the collection of hedge funds and institutions that prevailed over local investors at an April auction were supposed to wire the company $105 million in cash.  But three unions representing the newspapers’ drivers, pressmen, and machinists have rejected tentative contracts.

The purchase agreement allows the new owners to walk away from the deal if it cannot reach terms with all of the unions.   The sticking point has centered on ending company contributions to their defined-benefit pension plans.

Nine other newspaper unions — including the Newspaper Guild, which represents reporters and photographers — have approved three-year deals.

During the 18-month-long legal fight in bankruptcy court, there were numerous extensions on a number of issues. But the debtor, the current owner, is quickly running out of cash.

Private discussions with chief bankruptcy judge Stephen Raslavitch were likely to include whether another extension was feasible, or advisable.