news press

Bankruptcy Trustee for ‘Santa Barbara News-Press’ Attempts to Claw Back Buildings

At the time of the bankruptcy filing of the Santa Barbara News-Press, many wondered how the company, owned by billionaire Wendy McCaw, could have only $50,000 in assets. Required to do more than wonder are bankruptcy trustee Jerry Namba of Santa Maria and his attorney, Michael D’Alba of Danning Gill in Los Angeles, who filed a lawsuit against McCaw — through her company Ampersand Publishing LLC dba Santa Barbara News-Press — on December 26 alleging she fraudulently transferred ownership of the flagship building on De la Guerra Plaza and its printing plant in Goleta from her publishing company to herself — through two other limited liability companies she owned. The two properties are worth an estimated $26 million. The liabilities in the bankruptcy are said to be approximately $10 million, including a $3.6 million judgment in favor of McCaw’s employees who had formed a union that their boss never negotiated with in good faith.

A number of those employees are also owed back wages, and it’s the taxes on those wages and the judgment that the Complaint argues provide an avenue to claw back the two buildings.

Wendy McCaw, owner, and Arthur von Weisenberger, co-publisher, of the ‘Santa Barbara
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Bankruptcy Court OKs Terminating Santa Barbara News-Press Employee Retirement Plan | Local News

In another blow to former Santa Barbara News-Press employees, the bankruptcy trustee is terminating the company’s 401(k) retirement plan and will pay the fees out of their accounts.

When Ampersand Publishing owner Wendy McCaw filed for bankruptcy in July, the News-Press stopped publication, and Managing Editor Dave Mason told employees their jobs were eliminated.

McCaw claims in court documents that the parent company has about $5 million in debts, including payments to former employees and vendors, and much less in assets.

Last month, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ronald A. Clifford III approved terminating the Nationwide Financial 401(k) employee benefit plan because the business no longer exists.

Bankruptcy trustee Jerry Namba and his attorneys said former News-Press employees “have apparently been contacting (plan administrator Latitude Retirement) to inquire about the status of their 401(k) accounts and how the funds will be distributed.”

Requests to distribute the money couldn’t be processed because of the bankruptcy filing, bankruptcy attorneys wrote in court documents.

Former News-Press sports writer Mark Patton said he’s been trying to roll over his 401(k) into an IRA account “and have been getting nothing but a total run around from everybody,” including Nationwide, Latitude, and the bankruptcy attorneys.


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Bankruptcy Attorneys Question News-Press Owner Wendy McCaw About Assets, Property Transfers | Local News

Attorneys questioned Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw for two hours at a Thursday bankruptcy hearing, and dug into the business’ operations and the assets claimed in court documents.

McCaw’s Ampersand Publishing, parent company of the News-Press, declared bankruptcy on July 21, the same day the newspaper stopped publishing to its website and told all employes their jobs were eliminated.

The bankruptcy documents list few assets and more than $5 million owed to creditors such as former employees, vendors, utility companies, local businesses, and subscribers.

The assets conspicuously exclude real estate because McCaw transferred the business’ properties in 2014 to separate limited liability companies she controls, and apparently paid nothing to do so.

Those properties include the downtown Santa Barbara News-Press building at 715 Anacapa St., a parking lot across the street, and the newspaper’s Goleta printing press property at 725 S. Kellogg Ave.

McCaw said Thursday that the News-Press had no lease agreements and paid no rent to occupy the buildings, even after Ampersand Publishing no longer owned the properties.

The section of bankruptcy documents where leases would be is blank.

“With nothing listed there, I have questions,” said attorney Michael D’Alba of Danning Gill.

Bankruptcy trustee Jerry Namba,

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Former News-Press Employees Ponder What Bankruptcy Means for Backpay | Local News

To some past Santa Barbara News-Press employees who are owed money for labor violations, the Ampersand Publishing bankruptcy filing feels like a ploy to avoid paying.

A National Labor Relations Board case has stretched on more than 15 years. News-Press owner Wendy McCaw’s company was found liable and ordered to pay employees $2.2 million, but the payments haven’t been made.

About 25 employees are listed among the hundreds of creditors in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy documents filed last week by Ampersand Publishing, parent company of the News-Press.

“We’ve been told they’re still trying to make Wendy pay up at least what she owes all of her former employees and whatever employees were left, so we’ll see what happens,” former News-Press sports editor and columnist Mark Patton told Noozhawk.

“It would be kind of the ultimate insult if this bankruptcy goes through in a building she owns, and she says she does not have enough to pay employees. It’s kind of a sick irony.”

The NLRB ordered the newspaper company to pay Teamsters Union employees for losses from discontinued merit pay raises and using non-union workers at the company, and backpay to Dennis Moran and Richard Mineards who were unfairly

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