Will Freedom Take Playboy Down With Register?

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There is one thing we can take solace in here at the Weekly: post something online about infighting at the Orange County Register and its Freedom Communications parent and it's sure to generate comments--from those doing the infighting. Our Publisher to Register Employees: Let Them Eat Hawaiian Bread, March 9, drew a respectable eight comments. Source Says Furloughs Will Be Forced on Register Employees, March 12, got another six. A dozen more chimed in on Insiders Take Potshots at Freedom Communications, April 24.

But Battle Between Register Execs and Peons Takes a Spanish Turn has been the gift that keeps giving since its April 16 debut, offering a conversation in the comments section that continued as of an hour ago. There have been 35 comments there in all, which--no--are not Armenian genocide or Nick Adenhart numbers. But it's the quality of the discussion, the twists it has taken over the last month and the insights it provides on the Reg/Freedom exec/associate mindset that has proven delicious. It may even be providing some news, if the rumor about Freedom president and CEO Scott Flanders fleeing to Playboy magazine are true. We'll apparently find out when Freedom shareholders meet Thursday.

To get you up to speed on the Battle back-and-forth, the current thread concerns whether members of the family of Santa Ana Register founder R.C. Hoiles who have retained ownership shares in Freedom Communications care about employees, also known as "associates." Poor spelling, grammar and uppercase/lowercase infractions are left intact for authenticity.
"How one can blame the family just amazes me," sportsbook wrote on May 2. "The Hoiles family who brought in Blackstone in order to buy out disgruntled family members, many of them didn't take ONE dollar off the table. Now, like the rest of the industry, mind you, they owe more then the co. is worth. If they fire Scott, they will still have to pay him, via his contract. No one has the answers...there are no buyers out there, the co. is going to go under eventually, and sadly its because the family thought too much about 'the associates.' Had they been smart they would have just sold the whole thing and been set for life. Or at least done an IPO and taken some cash off the table. Don't be surprised if this paper fails and declares bankruptcy.....I feel sorry for them."

Tarp disagrees: "What!!!!!!! family caring about the associates??????????? Those trust fund babies could care less about the associates."

RC Hoiles, the most prolific commenter out of Arizona, agrees with Tarp: "Yeah, as if...Tim Hoiles ever cared about the guy and gal working the late shift in the mailroom. All he cared about was his Harley and his parent's bank account."

Later:

"Who says Freedom's esteemed leader Scott Flanders doesn't have BALLS. Even with his company in free fall and his top execs unaware that three of its daily newspapers are changing format from broadsheet to tabloid and as he shamelessly darts off to board meetings to tell other companies how to run their enterprise, (as if...) he jets into the nation's second largest pork producing state at the height of the pan-epidemic swine flu scare to admonish some publishers and regional presidents starting with Miss Piggy herself, Jennie Lambert. You go, Scotty."

Prez Obama concurs: "RC: Scotty can fix everything, just ask him. He will cure the flu epidemic, cure world hunger, and invent a cure for the common cold. He is super man!!!!!!!!!! But first, he needs to finish running Freedom into ground with this 'tranformation' process. Guess we know know what that means now. Who would have guessed? Hey, where are those family board members.... did Scotty lay them off too?"

davey threshire wonders why all the complaints about Flanders, who threshie claims is "set to be named CEO of Playboy very soon. Seriously. He'll be gone and he'll take one of his cronies with him."

hef asks: "Is that the naked truth you speak about scotty? I guess he will 'lay' some of the bunnies off there also as he transforms playboy. Another publication will go into the rabbit hole."

harry hoiles sums things up: "Lets see, the DarkBoulder boys let Scotty sacrifice Columbia House to the Internets. Then the DarkBoulder boys gave him Freedom to sacrifice to the Internets. Now they will give him an opportunity at the only business model that works on the Internets; adult content. Let's see if he can ruin Playboy in a proven business model! Just how many lives does Scotty have?"

tim hoyles on May 6 advised to "Watch for announcement about Scotty and Playboy after Freedom board meeting next week."

[Reality check: One would have thought Playboy Enterprises would have announced that today, when interim chairman and CEO Jerome Kern--who has been at the helm since Christie Hefner departed in January--announced amid deep readership and advertising declines Playboy magazine is contemplating "radical changes" that may include cutting its circulation and reducing the frequency with which it is published, while rolling out a new redesign in the June edition aimed at bringing a "younger and fresher look to the magazine." Or perhaps it is proper to await an announcement from the company one is departing.]

sportsbook confirms an earlier ill thought about Tim Hoiles--the real Tim Hoiles as opposed to the blog commenter tim hoyles: "You are right about Tim.....it was he who forced the issue, and wanted liquidity...dividends weren't good enough apparently...he and his 'side' cashed out, much of the family took very little off the table....because of concern for the associates in fact, and now they have nothing....it is quite sad actually."

But that raises this question to sportsbook from bob seegal: "How do you know the remaining family members didn't cash in much because of their concern for associates? Might it have been their desire to keep their dividends flowing and maintain the libertarian philosophy? I've never seen much concern for the associates. If they cared that much, they would have prevented all the layoffs."

kennedy family members also doubt the existence of Hoiles family concern for associates: "Concerns for the associates + Hoiles family does not equal concern for associates. They could care less about associates, it ALL ABOUT THE MONEY for those trust fund baby's. What a joke!"

The back-and-forth has heated up in the comments section this week. From Karen J on Sunday: "How a company that owes 700 million, yet is worth 200 million is going to avoid layoffs is beyond my managerial experience. How one can blame a family that isn't even involved is crazy talk. The issue here is newspapers are done. This paper used to be a bright star in a big muck of So. Cal. Newspapers....sadly that is not the case any longer. I will be shocked if Scott announces anything after the board meeting re: Playboy. How did you come to this info? Lastly, I know someone who is close to one of the family members, and they have not had an income in a year, many of them are outraged at the lack of control they now have over what happens at Freedom, but are unable to do anything...how one measly shareholder can stand up to Blackstone or Mgmt that has shown to be non-family friendly is also beyond me."

hef fires back on Monday: "Family board members are asleep as usual and the family sold interest to a privtae equity firm. You cannot tell me they have nothing to do with whats going on now. Just because they had $$$$$$ in there sights.... its all about money!!!!! And BOO HOO about them not having any income. If they were not greedy and had to have mo money, they should not have invited blackstone to take over their control. But wait, doesnt the family have 51% interest??? Guess they aint too bright to let this happen. BOO HOO family, let me get you more tissue...what a joke...."

rc hoiles concurs the same day: "But they seem to have money to burn so that regional presidents like Miss Piggy from Gastonia can fly out to Irvine on the company dime to celebrate Segal's 60th BD this Thursday! all the while the folks in Yuma are required to use left over newsprint as paper towels in their lavatories."

That's gross. Sportsbook offers a correction today: "I think J. Lambert is being flown out to attend the board meeting on Thurs. Jon's party is not on the company dime, and it's fri. pm. Yuma information is once again exagerated."

Maybe, but you're not discounting the dirty newsprint paper towels, are you Sportsbook? Meanwhile, tim hoyles sticks to his scoop: "Alrighty, Karen j. Stand by to be shocked with the Flanders Playboy announcement. You can count the days maybe even the hours. As for the family control they have board members including the chairman. Maybe they have been misled by management and weren't smart enough to see it."

hef offers another possibility: "maybe flanders is apperaring in playby, not running it. Anyways, Gordon Geckio was right....."

That would be a "radical change" for Playboy--as would hef's use of spellcheck.

Finally, clueless family just an hour ago offers a secret to future Freedom success: "if the family were smart they would just concentrate on printing (which can still be profitable) and NOT news/information. newspapers are dying, no doubt, and i seriously doubt they can make any money from the internet, but PRINTING is not. But i'm sure they are unable (out of stupidity or contractual agreements) to separate the two."

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