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Times Mirror Unveils Corporate Overhaul, Plans to Cut 1,750 Jobs : Media: The restructuring is designed to improve its financial performance and return it to fundamental operations.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Times Mirror Co. on Wednesday unveiled a corporate overhaul to improve financial performance that will return the Los Angeles media company to its fundamental operations while eliminating more than 1,750 jobs at its newspapers.

Besides the restructuring, which the company said will result in charges of “several hundred million dollars” in the second half, Times Mirror said it will close its multimedia division and buy back up to 10% of its common stock. The firm, which publishes the Los Angeles Times, also announced a sharp drop in second-quarter operating profit.

“We have made a very clear decision to focus our efforts, our activities and our investments on our core businesses,” Mark H. Willes, Times Mirror president and chief executive, said in a telephone news conference.

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Willes, who joined the company June 1, identified Times Mirror’s basic businesses as newspapers, magazines and professional information sources.

“Having decided to focus on our core businesses, I have looked at our core businesses and I frankly like our core businesses,” he said. “We’re not in the process of selling them. . . . We need to improve the performance of what we’ve got, not sell them off to other people.”

Times Mirror’s announcement came less than a week after the firm shut down its award-winning but money-losing New York Newsday newspaper, eliminating more than 750 jobs. A profitable sister newspaper, Newsday, continues to publish on Long Island.

The closure of New York Newsday is part of a broad cost-cutting campaign that includes the elimination of another 1,000 newspaper jobs, 700 of them at The Times, the firm’s flagship publication. The Times, which has already cut 230 of those jobs, has struggled through rising newsprint costs, an uncertain Southern California economy and flat revenue.

About half the additional job cuts at The Times will come through layoffs resulting from “product discontinuance,” Publisher Richard T. Schlosberg III said during the news conference. Schlosberg said he could not be more specific about which sections or services might be discontinued until employees are notified.

Times Mirror also recently announced plans to stop publishing the Baltimore Evening Sun in September and to offer a voluntary retirement program at the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Those steps resulted in a $3.2-million charge to earnings in the second quarter.

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Second-quarter net income totaled $26 million, or 11 cents a share, after preferred dividend requirements of $13.8 million, compared to $45.4 million, or 35 cents a share, in the same period last year. Net income from continuing operations in the 1994 period was $32.1 million, or 25 cents a share.

Excluding gains and losses from asset sales in both years, earnings per share would have been 13 cents in the second quarter of 1995 and 20 cents in the second quarter of 1994.

In the first half of 1995, net income was $1.676 billion, or $13.99 a share, compared to $68.1 million, or 53 cents a share, in the previous year. First-half 1995 net income included a $1.634-billion gain on the merger of the company’s cable television operations and income from the discontinued cable TV operations to the date of the sale of $4.6 million; first-half 1994 net included income from the discontinued cable TV operations of $28.5 million.

In the first half of 1995, income from continuing operations was $41.1 million, or 19 cents a share, compared to $39.6 million, or 31 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Despite the expected big charges later in the year, the company’s earnings from continuing operations in 1995 will reach stock market analysts’ projections of 75 cents to 80 cents a share, Willes said. In 1996, the company’s earnings from continuing operations should be between $1 and $1.55 a share, he said.

Wall Street approved of the changes. Times Mirror stock closed at $27.25 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 25 cents on a day when the overall market tumbled.

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“The moves that Willes is announcing are smart and probably long overdue,” said Kenneth T. Berents, research director for the Wheat First Butcher Singer Inc. securities firm. “It’s traumatic when you do something like this, but, in fact, the company was operating inefficiently.”

Times Mirror will retain its TimesLink and Newsday Direct electronic services, but Willes said the firm will review all non-core business assets and its efforts to develop a cable TV programming business. The company is in active discussions with potential additional partners for the cable channels already begun, he said.

Times Mirror also said it intends to close a corporate office in Washington and by year-end will discontinue funding for the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press, a media research group.

“While the first stage in the redirection of the company involves sharp expense reduction and resource reallocations, we cannot save our way to prosperity,” Willes said.

For the quarter, Times Mirror’s newspaper publishing group, its biggest segment, recorded $53.1 million in operating profit on revenue of $526.6 million. In the same quarter of 1994, the group posted operating profit of $52.9 million on revenue of $517.3 million.

Times Mirror is a media and professional information company that publishes newspapers, consumer and trade magazines and a wide array of books and information and educational products for professional markets.

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