New Montana News Projects

by William Skink

Media is changing in Montana, and that should make the corporate executives at Iowa-based Lee Enterprises nervous.

Last Best News–a for-profit online alternative to corporate crap–took a recent look at these changes with 3 cheers for the state’s growing online news, highlighting the efforts of John Adams news venture, The Montana Free Press, and Martin Kidston’s Missoula Current.

These new news efforts are important and timely as executives at Lee Enterprises read the writing on the wall and move to protect themselves in case the company gets sold out from under them:

The board of Lee Enterprises, owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has acted to protect its executives in case the company is sold.

The board approved new agreements giving nine senior executives pay, stock compensation and benefits in case they are terminated after a change of control at Lee, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Some senior executives have had similar change-of-control protection since 2008, according to the company’s proxy filing last year.

“In 2015, Lee reviewed the company’s change-in-control agreements and made changes to better align them with general industry practices,” Lee spokesman Charles Arms said Friday in an email. “Lee is not considering placing itself for sale nor has Lee received a buyout offer.”

In the new agreements, CEO Mary Junck would receive compensation worth $5.6 million in a change of control. Chief Operating Officer Kevin Mowbray would receive $1.5 million, and other executives lesser amounts.

Only in corporate America are people at the top so handsomely rewarded for failure.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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12 Responses to New Montana News Projects

  1. Greg Strandberg says:

    Montana Free Press is a great site if you like new stories once a week.
    The Missoula Current is good for getting local party talking points and agendas.

    • JC says:

      MT Free Press had 5 stories last week. And I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Missoula Currents as only being local party stuff — there’s plenty of other news there. It’s just good to see something arising out of the Lee/Gannet flotsam and jetsam.

  2. Bob Williams says:

    Could be that W. Buffett, Lee stockholder since LEE Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, wanted LEE to budget all of 2015 and at years end take ten million USD profits and fund a platinum parachute for LEE central command, for the purpose of making some of the LEE newspapers more marketable and less burdensome to buyers of interest, in 2016 and forward, therefore a legit profit grab in the eyes of the IRS!
    A triple steal.
    Of much more interest, any local interest in buying a Gannet or Lee newspaper in Montana?

  3. Big Swede says:

    “Only in corporate America”, really?

    How come politicians of modest means leave office with incredible wealth?

    • That is the classic false dichotomy, Swede. Who controls the economy also controls the government. Thus do lowlife criminals enter both the corporate and government world and come out fabulously wealthy. It’s all one gigantic pie eating contest.

      • Big Swede says:

        Oh, Governments can’t overtake corporations? Tell that to the coal industry.

        • Big Swede says:

          Here’s a prime example from the Wall Street Daily.

          If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered: How do so many politicians strike it rich when they only make a salary?

          Well, a seasoned politician in Montana has provided the answer.

          Aspiring Democratic presidential candidate and former Governor, Brian Schweitzer, is showing us exactly how to get rich without breaking a sweat.

          While in office, Schweitzer apparently saw promise in the mining business… and he decided to join the fun. Soon after leaving the Governor’s mansion, he targeted Montana’s largest mining company, Stillwater Mining Company (SWC), which produces palladium and platinum.

          Schweitzer launched a massive propaganda campaign against Stillwater, claiming mismanagement by the Stillwater Board of Directors and, specifically, their longtime CEO, Frank McAllister. Schweitzer teamed up with a New York hedge fund, the Clinton Group, and – through public denouncements and intimidation – forced the Board of Directors to fire McAllister.

          By then, Schweitzer was unemployed, and he became part-time Chairman of the Board of Stillwater. He was paid a salary of $188,000, but that was only the beginning of the booty.

          Schweitzer now owns 39,703 shares of Stillwater Mining that, at Tuesday’s closing price of $16.71, are worth around $663,437. Not a bad haul for someone who’d never run a mining company, and has zero experience or training in geology, metallurgy, or mining engineering – three disciplines crucial to running a successful mining company.

          Modern-Day Gangster
          But Schweitzer wasn’t satisfied yet.

          Following an almost identical playbook, he placed a call to Glenn Dobbs, the CEO of Mines Management, Inc. (MGN), on Monday, March 24.

          Back when he was Governor, Schweitzer had met with Dobbs and learned about the Montanore Deposit – Mines Management’s large, underground copper and silver deposit near Libby, Montana.

          Over the phone, Dobbs was told that Schweitzer and a partner, Francis (Frank) Duval, had formed a new company called Optima, Inc. Under that name, Schweitzer had bought some mining claims over the 14,000-foot tunnel into MGN’s Montanore Deposit.

          Schweitzer informed Dobbs that, unless Mines Management paid Optima $500,000 per year for the next four years, plus six million shares of Mines Management stock (representing 21% of the company and valued at approximately $10 million), he and his partners intended to generate controversy around the Montanore Project.

          It’s worth noting here that Frank Duval and his wife have signed several consent decrees with the Securities and Exchange Commission to refrain from fraudulent securities activities. On top of that, Optima’s only assets were Schweitzer’s Rolodex and his media contacts.

          When asked about his interaction with Schweitzer, Dobbs said, “It was an extortion call. They were going to announce to the world the lie that we didn’t have access to the project. They would create controversy and depress our share price… It’s really gutter-type gangsterism.”

          When Dobbs didn’t acquiesce, Schweitzer put his PR push into high gear. Last week, Schweitzer began calling media outlets throughout Montana to tell his story. The result has been a roughly 40% decline in MGN’s share price and a decline in market capitalization (the value that the financial markets place on the company) of about $12.5 million.

          Dobbs said that this is more than enough to justify a class-action lawsuit by Mines Management’s shareholders against Schweitzer, Duval and other partners in Optima, Inc.

          The initial lawsuit will be filed by the company itself, and shareholders – many of whom have lost a significant portion of their retirement savings – will have the opportunity to join in a class.

          Dobbs said, “It’s a shame when people in whom the public have placed their trust become as desperate as to align themselves with known scoundrels and become one of them. Schweitzer and the Duval family clearly formed Optima for the sole purpose of trying to take advantage of the hard work and financial resources of hardworking people for their own self-enrichment.”

          Of course, Dobbs is right. Yet there you have it… the playbook that shows how politicians get rich. And Brian Schweitzer’s scheme is just one small example. On Capitol Hill, Congressmen execute similar plans on a significantly grander scale. So if you want to get rich without all the work, pack up and head to D.C.

          Your eyes on the Hill,

          Floyd Brown”

        • I don’t need to argue, Swede. You’re making my point for me.

    • the politicians aren’t being rewarded for failure, they are being rewarded for success.

  4. steve kelly says:

    Success, which, of course, extends to the Middle East, Asia and beyond. Chaos is success if the plan is PNAC. That is the global plan currently being executed.

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