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Free Lance-Star Publishing Co. Files for Bankruptcy

End of an era for the Rowe family, for Fredericksburg.

The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company announced has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Photo by Susan Larson.
The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company announced has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Photo by Susan Larson.
The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company announced today it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"The company filed the petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond together with William Douglas Properties LLC, a related entity that owns a portion of the land upon which the FLS operates parts of its business," the company reported in its newspaper, The Free Lance-Star.

“'The filing isn’t expected to have any immediate effect on the company’s employees, customers, advertisers or vendors," FLS Publisher Nick Cadwallender said in the newspaper.

New York City-based Sandton Capital Partners or an affiliate is named in the article as a potential new owner for FLS. It is reported Sandton holds the loan originally obtained to build Print Innovators, a printing plant on Belman Road in Fredericksburg.  FLS officials had hoped the plant would attract additional commercial jobs. 

"The company took many steps to try to restructure the business to become compliant with the loan covenants," FLS reported. "That included reducing the number of full- and part-time employees from about 454 in 2007 to 303 at the end of 2013."

Employee benefits and hours have also been cut.

“'As you can imagine, this has been a difficult decision for the Rowe family to make, but we believe this is in the best interest of everyone involved,' Cadwallender told FLS employees during a company-wide meeting Thursday morning," the paper reported.

In addition to The Free Lance-Star, the company's assets include Fredericksburg.com, Freelancestar.com, WFLS, WYSK, WWUZ and WNTX. It also owns real estate and other digital operations, the newspaper said.

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Daniel P. Cortez January 23, 2014 at 10:46 AM
Unfortunate reality again that print mediums will die a slow death with out the diversity and outreach needed for new audiences. It is sad with the changing demographics in the region that the Rowe's lacked the vision and business acumen to survive.
Rob Grogan January 23, 2014 at 10:51 AM
So sorry this is happening. I've known many wonderful administrators and employees of the paper, many of whom lost their jobs. I hope the next owner will localize the paper and add in-depth and investigative reporting on local government, and refrain from news and features beyond our region unless they affect the FXBG area. Most of all, I hope everyone lands on their feet and moves on successfully. Best wishes for the radio side, too. The variety of music they offer is a good one that we need to keep getting here in the Burg. Best, Rob Grogan Front Porch fredericksburg Magazine
Raconteur January 23, 2014 at 11:08 AM
Let's see. Piss off readership by printing biased "news". Check! Piss off readers by printing and supporting liberal causes and candidates. Check! Keep the liberal editors and writers; fire the conservatives. Check! Lose a huge chunk of subscribers by the aforementioned. Check! File for Chapter 11. Check! I'm glad I could help by cancelling my subscription 2 years ago. Check!
jlafley January 23, 2014 at 11:13 AM
I am not surprised. The news media has changed rapidly and new readers are not attracted to papers. It is only the old timers who prefer reading hard copies. I wish the staff well.
JimTh January 23, 2014 at 11:26 AM
The star was printed for people that do not give a hoot about news. They keep themselves low information voters and every once in awhile the star would provide them a chunk of red meat in the form of a bumper sticker slogan they could see on the headline page. No need to buy a paper that provides all the news unfit to print in a few bold words above the fold. Yes sadly the star was a liberal rag mainly used for puppy pads. That is why you are out of business and loosing your jobs. Who knows...maybe you can get a spot on the msnbc line up.
JimTh January 23, 2014 at 12:28 PM
Dan...it has to be a tea party thing huh. You must have gotten that slogan off the headline page of the star. You make our point. Find some other slogans will ya...the "tea party" stuff is getting really stale!
JimTh January 23, 2014 at 12:30 PM
One other item dan...Raconteur never once mentioned the tea party. You simply made it up because it sounds smart. That is why the star is out of business...making crap up! They lost plenty of subscribers, me being one. I wouldn't even let them give me a free copy when they set up the food lion kiosk.
1Ronald January 23, 2014 at 02:34 PM
The FLS was not too liberal. I was hoping with Paul Akers gone that there would be a more representative editoral page but the same doleful whiners trudge on into nothingness. Paul Akers is why I canceled. What kind of people do we have here that would even "think" the FLS was liberal at all?
1Ronald January 23, 2014 at 02:37 PM
Wonder if Larry Evans had stayed, wasn't run out to look for another job, if things would have been different? Larry was fair and invited all viewpoints to comment and share in the glory of the great paper, Free Lance Star.
Daniel P. Cortez January 23, 2014 at 04:38 PM
I don't know Dan as a former FLS guy I did see the bias in the newsroom and the politics were vicious as they are with any media outlet. But they reap what they sowed. It is a small town rag and many folks punch their ticket and move on to bigger and better things or stay because they can't move on. It is a sign of the times. I just feel sorry for the families that will be hurt by the poor business practices, bad decisions and a lack of vision. But what is done is done.
1Ronald January 23, 2014 at 06:50 PM
The $40 million printing press was a financial disaster. I never thought they could recover from this purchase. And why all the vitriol? Who is stirring up the commenters and getting them so upset? Would someone please tell me? This does't do them, the city, or anybody any good.
Daniel P. Cortez January 23, 2014 at 06:57 PM
It is simply called what the Star tried to promote....freedom of speech. And when the readership found what was written unpalatable politically or professionally....they found another medium. It does everybody good....No guarantees in life partner. The strong survive in a democracy.
Michael P. Burke January 24, 2014 at 06:57 AM
What mattered to me was not listening to the rhetoric about the Dems and GOP or the tea party. What mattered to me was learning about what was happening in the community. ALL politics aside. I wanted to know what the breaking local news was. Media is moving to the computer. Warren Buffett bought the paper in Manassas. because for years up there it was the Journal Messenger and then it merged with the Potomac News and once Buffett bought it, it was like losing a friend in the community. People looked to the local papers to stay connected with what was happening at home. Now they use InsideNova up there and they are doing their best to fill the void those papers left in Prince William. But For Fredericksburg FLS and Patch are really the ONLY sources to go to for the best local and breaking local news. You can't expect the DC media or the Richmond media to pick up what goes on in Spotsy/Stafford/ Orange/ King George. Again for local news media I know that most media is politically slanted to support the liberal agendas nobody ever offers an unbiased view that has any neutrality but politics aside, FLS has been Fredericksburg's friend Just as Journal Messenger and Potomac news were Prince William's Friends. If FLS has to go away due to the bankruptcy I hope that somebody would pick up the flag and run with it just as InsideNova did to our north. Personally I'm not a fan of the infighting in the local community over political agendas because we waste an awful lot of time arguing and not just doing. We have not because we do not. Pretty simple math there and the bottom line.
jonathan Smith January 24, 2014 at 08:34 AM
I am a part owner in a couple print publications..one being a newspaper that serves Lake Anna and the surrounding counties. Yes print advertising is down especially when it is ineffective. You need to manage that properly and provide good customer service. That fact of the matter is this locale is still a retirement heavy demographic and they tend to lean towards print. I will not speculate what "brought them down" but what ever it was could have been avoided.. any other reason is just an excuse...
Dennis Hannick January 24, 2014 at 09:04 AM
Dan Tevlock, yes, when you look in the mirror you never look like a liberal. Does the name Richard Amrhine ring a bell? Not liberal? More like a raving socialist. Then there is using unvetted AP articles, pushing the left wing propaganda. Or perhaps they were vetted -- by Amrhine. Moving Owens (liberal) into the Opinion editor and Smalley (conservative) out to the Town & Country, was not politics driven, Noooo. Dan, that is the problem at FLS: still shoveling the same BS, rolling in it like a hound and trying to tell everyone how great it smells!
jonathan Smith January 24, 2014 at 09:15 AM
Dennis, you mean that WAS the problem with FLS...
Dennis Hannick January 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM
Jonathan, I'm an optimist. Whatever they replace the current FLS with, the cockroaches will inhabit it and claim it's "new and improved". Just like Obamacare: "It's so much better than it was!" Very similar to smashing your hand with a brick; it feels so much better when you use a smaller brick.
ELAINE SMITH-MASON January 24, 2014 at 06:47 PM
I just got to say thank you! I'am 55 years old with 5 generations in the Fredericksburg area. F.L.S.has served us well. All my life your paper has been there. From my fathers house, uncles, aunts and grandmothers your paper was always there. At grandma's with no t.v.or running water to entertain us. As young boy I could not wait to get the paper so my uncle could read the comics to me. When I needed cars, jobs to place to live I turned to The F.L.S. From wrapping gifts, to lining bird cages and so much more. When I think of my Dad I can see him smoking his pipe behind the paper. All of my family would head out, rain or shine first thing to get the paper. It would be nice for you not to fade a way like so many other things. Thanks for a job well done. Bill Mason
Susan Larson (Editor) January 26, 2014 at 09:42 PM
An update published Jan. 25: Free Lance-Star Plans Auction Under Chapter 11 (http://fredericksburg.patch.com/groups/business-news/p/free-lancestar-plans-auction-under-chapter-11)
1Ronald January 27, 2014 at 09:30 AM
I sincerely hope that the FLS emerges from this and can continue to provide Fredericksburg with many more years of local news and bargains that we otherwise would not be aware. I am surprised by the extremists' comments many of whom appear delusional beyond belief. Again, I ask, who is fanning the flames of discord and stoking an agenda that reminds of P. T. Barnum, "There's a sucker born every minute?" The Free Lance Star has provided columnists that present ALL views from progressive Amrhein to the failed physician-psychiatrist now a conservative journalist Charles Krauthammer. It's all there. What a terrible place it would be if everyone were forced to read one point of view.
Nomadique January 27, 2014 at 07:22 PM
1Ronald -- for the record, Charles Krauthammer is not a "failed" physician. He graduated from Harvard Medical School, did a residency at Mass General, and, with only a few months to go in that residency, was recruited by one of his professors for a high-level policy job shaping the national research agenda for the National Institutes of Mental Health. So there. I do think the FLS was significantly more liberal than the community it served, but while that can't have helped, I think the collapse of the economic model of the daily newspaper renders trivial every other contributing factor. I'll also say that I grew up in Fredericksburg, went to James Monroe and Miss Sabetty's School of the Dance with the (now adult) Rowe kids, my parents and two brothers still live in town -- and we all mourn this bankruptcy. Along with Montfort Academy, and the aggressive uglification of the Rte 3 corridor -- another piece of our cultural heritage and way of life, destroyed.

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