Saturday, July 9, 2016

Borgs take money and run, staffers brace for Gannett's ax

Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg, former chairman of North Jersey Media Group, may be spending a lot more time at home on the East Hill of Englewood, above, now that Gannett Co. acquired The Record, Herald News, and other assets. To keep active, he might consider volunteering at the nearby hospital and medical center, as so many idle seniors do.


It may go down as one of the fastest disappearing acts in the long, checkered history of American print journalism.

Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg angered North Jersey Media Group employees by skipping "the all-hands meeting on Wednesday where it was announced that ... The (Bergen) Record, Herald News and other papers were sold to Gannett, ending four generations of family ownership," Keith J. Kelly of the New York Post reported.

"Borg, in a memo, said it was a 'bittersweet' ending for 86 years of family ownership of the 121-year-old daily," said Keith, who on June 16 broke the story of the sale to Gannett.

"Although Gannett assured ... staffers that they were all retained in the acquisition, most employees fear it is only a matter of time before pink slips start flying," Keith noted.

"Gannett already owns the Asbury Park Press and five other [daily] papers in New Jersey and is infamous for cutting costs and staff locally and centralizing operations to boost [profit] margins," the Post story concluded.

Stephen A. Borg

The Post reported only Mac's son, Stephen A. Borg, who was president and publisher of The Record, "attended and spoke at the meeting," but I couldn't find a media account that actually quoted the younger Borg.

When the marketing whiz took over from his father in 2006, he called every employee to Hackensack for a meeting to introduce himself.

The first words out of his mouth were: "I'm not in this for the money."

Then, in a puzzling move, he showed a slide of his $2 million home in Tenafly. That house soon was replaced by a $3.65 million McMansion bought with an NJMG mortgage several months before the biggest downsizing in company history. 

Later, he also was overheard saying no employee in the newsroom should be making more than $40,000 a year, and in recent years, he imposed a freeze on raises.

Clearly, the Borgs, including older sister and former Vice President/General Counsel Jennifer A. Borg, have taken the money and run -- perhaps to their summer home in the Hamptons.

Malcolm A. "Mac" Borg of Englewood in 2014, left.


Reacting to the absence of the elder Borg at Wednesday's staff meeting in Woodland Park, former employee Lou Lumenick wrote on Facebook:

"They [the staff] certainly have every reason to be angry!"

Lumenick recalled Mac Borg's botched attempt to but the Asbury Park Press in the 1980s and how the millionaire's "boorishness turned off the family that owned it. They eventually sold to Gannett."

"And now the bruised and battered Record has been absorbed by the job-choppers at Gannett. My sympathies to my friends at The Record, where I toiled for 18 years before my return to The [New York] Post in 1995."

Disappearing act

The day after the sale was announced, Thursday, the Woodland Park daily contained no mention of North Jersey Media Group. 

Nor did readers find the usual editorial page listing of Borg family members past and present, including Publisher John Borg (1922-48) and Editor Donald G. Borg (1932-75).

Now, on A-2 and the editorial page every day, the words "part of USA Today Network" appears under The Record's stylized masthead type.

Tom Donovan, a Gannett Co. employee, is listed on the editorial page as "Interim President" just above longtime NJMG employees Deirdre Sykes, editor of The Record, and Alfred P. Doblin, editor of the paper's editorial page. 

Coverage of sale

In the Woodland Park newsroom, employees read and re-read Thursday's front-page story in The Record, especially the sentence reporting the "acquisition will bring about $90 million in annual revenue to the [Gannett] company."

Why would the Borg family, which has always put personal gain before the health and welfare of their employees, sell a publishing company that was bringing in $90 million a year?

They wouldn't and it wasn't.

That $90 million in revenue can be realized only if Gannett gets rid of a substantial number of the 700 to 800 workers that remained at NJMG, which once employed more than twice that number before the Borgs abandoned Hackensack, where they prospered for more than 110 years.

Down the shore

Gannett executives can start accomplishing that by moving production of The Record to Neptune -- former headquarters of the Asbury Park Press -- where the company is already putting out its six other New Jersey dailies.

That could mean pink slips for six-figure Production Editor Liz Houlton, Copy Desk Supervisor Vinny Byrne and an unknown number of news, layout, copy and photo editors who have been working in an office building overlooking Route 80 in Woodland Park since 2009.

Many of those employees have been at The Record for two or three decades or more.

Governor Christie

The acquisition also leaves unresolved the conflict between The Record and the six other Gannett dailies and The Star-Ledger, the state's biggest newspaper.

All but The Record demanded the resignation of Governor Christie after he endorsed wacko racist Donald J. Trump for president. 

The Record's editors even refused to mention in their news columns or editorial page that those seven dailies had condemned the GOP bully.

The Woodland Park daily's favorable coverage of the worst governor in state history may be rooted in the close family and business relationship between the Borgs and Jon F. Hanson, the real estate mogul who was chief fundraiser during Christie's two gubernatorial campaigns.

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