Alliston-based Lee Newspapers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Almond also praised Lynne Fernstrom and Jim Zemianek for their services to the community, as she disclosed Lee’s board had voted to seek a new owner for the company.

Other bidders said Alden Global and Fubon Inc. — a Japanese company — were top contenders. Alden, based in New York and North America’s largest investor in distressed media companies, is known for seeking out newspapers that have fallen on hard times and restructuring them to boost the value.

Journal-News Managing Editor Craig Davis, who is well-known in the community, said the options are still on the table for the Lee journalism unit and would continue to be available to Lee employees.

Davis said Lee managers spent the Christmas holiday working through their options, but now the focus shifts to Lee employees and their families and to a transition period.

During a mid-December meeting with Lee employees at their offices in Amherst, Davis told them all that sales consultants are ready to take over as early as the end of January.

Prospects for the region’s biggest publisher appeared grim. After seven and a half months of exploration, Lee had failed to find a buyer. Its attempts to sell itself fell through with the bankruptcy process.

Fubon said it had responded to Lee’s informal advertisement that asked for interest in the company from the private equity market and then looked at various aspects of its operations including its ownership, management and staff. It did not participate in a formal bid process.

Len Rosenfeld, its U.S. president, confirmed that Alden Global was submitting a letter of intent to submit a bid. In fact, the deal was completed last night on Friday evening, according to sources.

Rosenfeld said he did not yet know whether Lee will keep more of the staff and plans to run the regional newspapers, according to Buffalo News staff reporter Susan Schulman. Lee faces significant payment obligations.

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