New Tidbits Revealed About Media General Buyout Offer
I recently received a copy of the packet sent to Media General employees laying out the terms of the buyout offer from the company. As I noted Monday, the offer has gone out to half the 1,326 employees of Media General subsidiary Florida Communications Group, which includes outlets such as WFLA-Ch. 8, the Tampa Tribune, TBO.com, Hernando Today and many more outlets.
The information in the packet is mostly technical, with details on handling 401 (K) plans, medical benefits and such. Rumors abound that certain types of employees -- copy editors, photographers and people who already practice a lot of convergence -- have not been offered the buyout. The fate of some of the Tribune's biggest stars, including columnists Dan Ruth and Steve Otto, has not yet been announced (TV anchors and on air types working under contract and are also exempt).
"It has become clear that the recession in Tampa is now so deep, that the cost-saving steps we have implemented will not be enough," reads a letter from FCG head John Schueler included with the packet. "If the necessary staff reducations are not achieved through this voluntary program, we are likely to require an involuntary program."
The money provided in the buyout is the same amount an employee would receive if they were laid off involuntarily, so there doesn't seem to be a lot of incentive to participate -- particularly if certain employees are not being informed that they will be laid off involuntarily if they don't take it; Schueler insists that is not happening. And because the company hasn't announced target levels for savings or buyouts, it's tough to anticipate whether involuntary layoffs will be necessary
-- If more people apply for the buyout than the company need, they will accept requests according to hire date -- first in, first out.
-- According to the company's timeline, employees who apply for the buyout will be notified between May 20 and May 23 if they have been accepted, with June 15 as their last day of employment.
-- Employees rehired within six months of their last day of employment must repay their severance. (Small update: I wonder, after talking with some friends about it, if this provision may also help prevent managers from giving someone a buyout and then rehiring them right away at a lower salary).
Here's a clip from my appearance on Media Talk, speaking on Dr. Phil and the buyouts.