Mulvaney has been at center of last 2 government shutdowns

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget chief Mick Mulvaney stormed Washington as a tea party lawmaker elected in 2010, and he hasn’t mellowed much as director of the Office of Management of Budget at the White House.

In both spots, he’s been at the center of government shutdowns.

As a congressman in 2013, Mulvaney was among a faction on the hard right that bullied GOP leaders into a shutdown confrontation by insisting on lacing a must-pass spending bill with provisions designed to cripple President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Then, the fast-talking South Carolina Republican downplayed the impact of a government shutdown, noting that critical government services would continue and Social Security benefits would be paid. He said about 75 percent of the government would remain open, and he noted that Congress arranged for the military to continue to get paid.

“In many ways, then, this is a government ‘slowdown’ more than it is a ‘shutdown,’” Mulvaney said back in 2013, though he added, “I know that is not much consolation for folks who are personally affected.”

Mulvaney voted against legislation to reopen the government and was unapologetic over his role as a ringleader in 2013, saying the GOP’s political beating — and eventual retreat — was the product of bad messaging.

Now, as the federal official in charge of managing government operations during the lapse in funding, Mulvaney is taking steps to ameliorate the shutdown, giving agencies more flexibility to remain open by using, for instance, previously appropriated money to keep their doors open. He accused the Obama White House of purposefully closing high-profile federal sites to reap political gain. The Trump administration will do what it can to keep national parks open and accessible, he said.

“We are going to manage the shutdown differently. We are not going to weaponize it,” Mulvaney said Friday. “We’re not going to try and hurt people, especially people who happen to work for this federal government.”

Mulvaney is quick-witted and possesses a disarming frankness, and he’s not afraid of being impolitic, even as he has risen to a Washington power post.

For instance, on Friday, just hours before the shutdown began, Mulvaney told conservative radio host Sean Hannity, “I found out for the first time last night that the person who technically shuts the government down is me, which is kind of cool.”

Mulvaney isn’t apologizing for the shutdown tactics he employed years ago, saying he opposed that year’s stopgap spending measure because it funded agencies that were implementing “Obamacare.” But now he’s faulting Democrats for seeking to use the very kind of leverage now that he failed to exploit back then.

“When Republicans tried to add a discussion about Obamacare to the funding process in 2013, we were accused by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer of inserting a non-fiscal — a non-financial — issue into the spending process in order to shut the government down,” Mulvaney said. “How is that not exactly what is happening today?”

Outdoor industry blends business, advocacy at new Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show

When Denver landed the Outdoor Retailer trade show last year, organizers promised not just a new location but a new vibe. This week, the influential trade show arrives at the Colorado Convention Center, blending with SnowSports Industries America’s Snow Show for a long-awaited rally of both outdoor and winter-industry retailers and manufacturers.

As the retail landscape shifts with brands offering direct-to-consumer sales, internet giants dominating e-commerce and the rising tide of click-and-mortar stores forever changing traditional gear shops, the wheeling and dealing on the three-level show floor will be critical. And amidst the shop owners stocking shelves for coming seasons, a surging army of advocates will be rattling their sabers, hoping to galvanize a united movement that protects public lands, water and climate. The show will blend not just the outdoor and winter crowds. This time around, a cavalcade of sociopolitical activity will permeate the show as the outdoor industry vies to sway public policy.

So yes, there will be a lot going on inside the convention center this week. It’s a historical four-day confab — the first of a planned three annual Outdoor Retailer trade shows in Denver that will deliver an expected $110 million economic impact each year — that not only fills local coffers with more than 28,000 attendees but elevates Colorado as the swelling epicenter of the outdoor industry. If all goes as planned this week, the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show will spark a political movement that establishes the industry as a major economic, cultural and political force.

And as part of that whole new vibe, the public will finally have more access to the consequential conclave, with open-to-everyone panel discussions, a movie night at the Bellco Theater and the Winter on the Rocks concert at Red Rocks. But first and foremost, the blended trade show is about connecting outdoor and ski shop owners with a larger-than-ever array of gear-makers.

In this Aug. 4, 2016, file
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press file

In this Aug. 4, 2016, file photo, people attend the Outdoor Retailer show, in Salt Lake City.

“We are bringing together two markets that haven’t been together for more than 30 years, and the opportunities for brands to meet new retailers and retailers to see new products and new brands is unprecedented,” said Marisa Nicholson, the director of the Outdoor Retailer trade show and vice president for show producer Emerald Expositions. “Our No. 1 focus is creating the most efficient, cost-effective way for business to get done for both manufacturers and retailers. Everything else builds around that.”

There’s a lot of “everything else.”

In addition to a rotating slate of seminars and panels designed to gird retailers for battle with increasingly shifting forces in the outdoor retail world — like brands selling via their own shops and websites — a litany of events will engage the public and stir political winds.

Luis Benitez, head of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, will gather the first-ever outdoor G8, a summit of eight state delegations with outdoor recreation offices like Colorado’s. The so-called Confluence Summit will focus on bipartisan issues like economic development, conservation, workforce training and public health. The idea is to create a sort of outdoor group similar to the Western Governor’s Association, a national political voice to elevate outdoor recreation economics and policy.

“This is pushing the idea that the outdoor industry is beyond a political stripe,” said Benitez, who hopes the annual summit spawns more offices like his as well as additional rallies in other states every summer. “If we can get everyone to agree that more things can happen at the state level than anywhere else, we can become a voice not just for outdoor economies but for the natural resources that drive our economies.”

Benitez will emcee the open-for-everyone Backcountry Film Festival’s “Night of Stoke” on Saturday at the Bellco Theater, with iconic athletes and activists introducing shorts that focus on climate, public lands and water. On Friday night, Icelantic Skis will host its annual Winter on the Rocks concert at Red Rocks, which this year will include the Snow Show’s popular fashion show.

For five days, a series of free and open-to-the-public seminars and discussions will take over the convention center’s intimate Understudy venue. The so-called Trade School — sponsored by Something Independent — will feature brewers, distillers, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, ski patrollers and podcasters discussing “the nature of work.”

“A big question we are going to be asking this week is ‘What is the road ahead?’ Not necessarily what’s been done but what’s coming,” said Chuck Sullivan, the co-founder of Denver’s Something Independent group, which fosters innovation and entrepreneurs in the West. “The outdoor industry has an outsized impact that inspires so much more. It’s a community of folks who are resilient and subscribe to the notion of putting heads down and getting stuff done.”

There’s going to be a large push to inspire those outdoor loving shop owners and vendors toward political action, probably more than any previous Outdoor Retailer or Snow Show. With the Trump Administration calling for the shrinking of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah — a move that ultimately triggered the Outdoor Retailer show to leave its longtime home in Salt Lake City in protest — as well as reductions in environmental protections, there’s an urgency in the outdoor industry to coalesce and fight for political change.

Amy Roberts, the head of Boulder’s Outdoor Industry Association, hopes to take overwhelming support for public lands, which has galvanized the industry more than anything in recent memory, and channel that toward climate change and protecting clean water and air. The industry is angry with federal policy changes this year, she said.

“People are very motivated to come together and figure out how we can start to create the change we hope to see in 2018, and people are excited to do that in a state like Colorado, which has a commitment to public lands,” she said.

While major manufacturers and brands such as Patagonia and REI lead the battle against what they see as an attack on public lands, shop owners also are keen to flex their united muscle to protect lands, access and water, Roberts said.

“There is a lot of power in these small-town businesses on Main Street,” Roberts said. “Sometimes that influence on public policy gets overlooked, but it’s really important.”

Retailers and brands may be eager for political change, but they are coming to Denver for business.

“I think the political stuff is definitely interesting with Bears Ears and Trump complications with the EPA and all that. I’m curious to see how it impacts the show, but the primary reason we are there is to look at product and talk to vendors and find new vendors,” said Jon Kahn, the 20-year-owner of Denver’s venerable Confluence Kayaks ski and paddle shop. “With more brands opening their own stores, we want to know how much direct competition we are going to have from our vendors versus vendors who don’t do direct-to-consumer. For us, we are trying to find the best representation of smaller, local brands so we have some exclusivity.”

Nicholson, the show director, is on it. Her job is to make sure shop owners like Kahn have everything they need to make the right decisions for their stores, and brands are able to channel their innovation (and order quantities) to meet those retailers’ needs.

The newly blended Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show will be revealed “more in a feeling than a visual take,” she said.

“It’s going to be a renewed sense of energy of excitement with two markets coming together. We want to create more ways for retailers and brands to be able to discover new things simultaneously,” said Nicholson, who has worked with Outdoor Retailer for 15 years. “There is so much passion in this industry. The things that are pushing and pulling us are the same things that bring us all together and create a sense of community unlike any other industry. All these people competing, but working together. It’s something very unique and really special, and that’s what will make this industry even stronger as we continue to endure the different challenges pressed upon us.”

Wings Over the Rockies’ long-planned second location arriving at Centennial Airport this summer

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum will open its second location this summer on the south side of Arapahoe County’s Centennial Airport, bolstering the nation’s second busiest general-aviation airport.

Centennial Airport hosts more than 340,000 takeoffs and landings each year, according to the Arapahoe County Airport Authority.

As a popular spot for family day-trips and themed fundraisers, the original Lowry location of Wings Over the Rockies has long plotted to expand to another location at Centennial Airport — which would allow people to “look out the window and see planes taking off,” said Mark Van Tine, former president of Jeppesen Sanderson Inc., in a 2005 Denver Post interview.

Now, with help from honorary co-chairmen Gov. John Hickenlooper and actor Harrison Ford, the plan is becoming reality with Wings’ 15-acre Exploration of Flight campus, which broke ground in 2014.

“Exploration of Flight will be unique,” said John Barry, president and CEO of Wings Over the Rockies, via phone from California, where he was preparing to meet with Ford about Wings’ fundraising. “The Lowry museum will concentrate on the past while the Exploration of Flight campus at Centennial focuses on the present and future. The only other aerospace organization with two locations like that is the Smithsonian.”

The museum’s first phase, the 18,000-square-foot Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery, is scheduled to open as early as May with interactive exhibits and activities, including a flight simulator and close-up views of airport operations, such as takeoffs and landings.

Wings Over the Rockies officials expect 20,000 to 30,000 visitors to the new gallery this summer.

  • An architectural rendering shows the entrance for the new Exploration of Flight campus in Centennial from Wings Over the Rockies.

    Provided by Wings Over the Rockies

    An architectural rendering shows the entrance for the new Exploration of Flight campus in Centennial from Wings Over the Rockies.

  • An architectural rendering shows the completed Wings Over the Rockies campus in Centennial, including the Exploration of Flight galleries.

    Provided by Wings Over the Rockies

    An architectural rendering shows the completed Wings Over the Rockies campus in Centennial, including the Exploration of Flight galleries.

  • An architectural rendering shows the completed Wings Over the Rockies campus in Centennial, including the Exploration of Flight galleries.

    Provided by Wings Over the Rockies

    An architectural rendering shows the completed Wings Over the Rockies campus in Centennial, including the Exploration of Flight galleries.

of

Expand

More features will open later, including a space gallery and a charter school for middle and high schoolers that seeks to fill a shortage of skilled aerospace workers. As an example, America is only graduating about 300 licensed commercial pilots annually, Barry said, despite a global demand for an average of 6,000 per year.

“It’s kind of a serendipitous opportunity, since I had 30 years in the Air Force, was director of the Columbia space shuttle accident investigation, and obviously have a schools background,” said Barry, a retired two-star general and former superintendent of Aurora Public Schools. “But this is not just about me by any means. It’s truly a team effort.”

That team includes Hickenlooper, who has championed Colorado as a center for aerospace innovation, and Ford, who has met several times with Hickenlooper and contributed time and money traveling in support of Wings Over the Rockies since it opened in 1994.

Barry said he’s also in talks with Ford to attend a May event that celebrates the Exploration of Flight opening in Centennial.

Initial estimates for the construction project were $40 million, although that has been revised downward to $24 million as details have landed.

“That will cover costs for the Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery, the Ozmen Black Sky Space Gallery and Entrance Gallery,” said marketing director Ben Theune, noting that changes in scope include the removal of a proposed IMAX theater.

Funds include $2.2 million from Boeing-owned Jeppesen, $1.5 million from Sierra Nevada Corp., a $3.3 million loan from the Walton Family Foundation, and “private donors that gave us millions more,” Barry said.

So far, Wingspan Capital Campaign has gathered more than half of its $24 million goal, or about $14 million, Theune said.

“On top all that we have an opportunity to have public and private partnerships between museums, schools, universities and an airfield,” Barry said.

Wings Over the Rockies saw 158,000 visitors in 2016 — a 15 percent increase over the previous year — including marquee events such as “Star Wars at the Hangar,” which brought a one-day record of 4,323 attendees.

“We’ve got to encourage young people to be part of aviation if we want to preserve the freedoms and opportunities that we all enjoy,” Ford said in a statement to the fundraising campaign. His name adorns the Welcome Theater at the Lowry location, and a short film of him flying a plane plays in a loop on the big screen.

Colorado is second in the country for employment and economic impact in aerospace, supporting 18,470 jobs, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. Furthermore, the Front Range hosts the highest concentration of aerospace workers in the nation, and the Rocky Mountain region boasts more pilots per capita than any other, according Wings’ annual report.

But Colorado still lacks a large amount of air and space museums — particularly compared with big aerospace states such as Florida, California and Texas.

This project will help change that, Barry said.

“Being a pilot is a job that should be open to children of any background,” he said. “It’s an not an elitist field.”

Selling your business? Focus on the key business drivers so buyers pay top dollar.

If you’re thinking about selling your business in 2018-2019, the time is right.

Why? First, the value of companies has never been higher. Buyers are paying premiums for well-run companies. Second, we are on the edge of an upward economic cycle, which is the best moment to sell your business. As of the time of this writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached an all-time high of more than 26,000. Third, low interest rates make it possible for buyers to lower their cost of capital when acquiring companies. Fourth, the unprecedented abundance of capital available for investments has never been higher. And finally, due to increased confidence in the economy, a record number of investors are looking for potential acquisitions.

However, receiving top dollar for your business is tied to how buyers perceive their financial risks and rewards. The more future potential reward a buyer perceives, the more a buyer is willing to pay for your business. The strength and quality of your key business drivers is critical to receiving the highest possible price.

Gary Miller,SDR Ventures. He writes a monthly column for The Denver Post.
Photo provided by Mark T. Osler

Gary Miller

There are 10 to 12 major business factors that drive value, but they vary by industry. Nevertheless, four of these transcend almost all other drivers regardless of the industry: strong recurring and diversified revenue streams, profits, margins and scalability; strong strategic business plans driving revenues from a diversified and loyal customer base; strong expected future cash flow and EBITDA (earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization) growth; and strong management bench strength and operating systems.

Focusing on these four business drivers can position you to maximize your company’s purchase price.

The No. 1 business driver among buyers is a history of increasing revenues and profits year over year for the past three to five years. Remember, buyers buy businesses to make money. While they will examine your past financials, operations and other due-diligence areas, they are really buying future expectations of revenues and earnings.

A second major business driver is a strategic business plan that is demonstrating strong organic growth (sales from existing and new customers), and inorganic growth (acquisition plans to gain share of market and expanded sales, if any). The plan must show strong competitive advantage in high-growth industries. If the products/services can be sold in multiple industries, so much the better. The value of your company will be even higher than those companies that serve only one industry.

A third major business driver is expected future cash flow. This includes a trio of key performance areas: expected EBITDA performance; expected working capital investment requirements; and expected fixed-asset investment requirements (also known as capital expenditures, or Cap Ex).

The higher your expected future EBITDA, the higher your company value – all else being equal. To drive expected EBITDA higher, be certain your strategic business plan is demonstrating sustained sales growth, market share gains, consistent improvement in EBITDA and gross margins. The plan s

hould clearly articulate how you are generating both your organic and inorganic sales.

Surprisingly, your existing debt load is not necessarily meaningful in these expectations, as buyers can change the capital structure as part of the transaction.

Next, the lower your expected Cap Ex and working capital investment requirements (often ball parked as receivables plus inventory minus accounts payable) are, the higher your valuation.  Ways to decrease your working capital requirements include cutting your average accounts receivables days outstanding, cleaning up bad debts, increasing your working capital turns, removing obsolete inventory and not paying vendors faster than necessary to earn your discounts. In other words, don’t pay your vendors faster than necessary just because you can.

Finally, the lower expected working capital investment means higher expected cash flow. To lower expected Cap Ex, keep your facility, equipment and rolling stock well-maintained and invest in fixed assets prudently. Palatial facilities do not translate into a higher value for your business, unless they also translate into higher future expected cash flow.

A fourth major business driver that lowers risk includes having a strong management team in place (bench strength) and strong operating systems. The more your business revolves around only you or another “key man/women,” the greater the perceived risk among buyers. Therefore, strange as it may sound, owners should strive to work themselves out of a job. A corollary to a strong management team is a quality employee base with low turnover. Both of these infer a strong culture and a stable labor force for future growth.

I recommend to clients that they obtain a detailed business assessment (audit) and analysis from a business consultant so they can identify their business’s strengths and weaknesses. The recommendations from the business assessment should identify which business drivers to improve so owners can obtain the highest price paid from a potential buyer.

Gary Miller is CEO of GEM Strategy Management Inc., which advises middle-market private business owners how to prepare to raise capital, sell their businesses or buy companies. 

Denver International Airport is working to become a destination — with ice skating and goat yoga — in and of itself

On any given day at this Denver landmark, there could be goat yoga, ice skating, beer tasting, live music and fine art.

You might even meet former Broncos quarterback and Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning.

This isn’t some all-inclusive Rocky Mountain vacation or a VIP state tour. It’s Denver International Airport — and in some ways, airports the world over — in the year 2018.

Air travel is surging globally, and DIA and other airports that are spending billions of dollars to lure more flights and revenue are also embracing far-flung ideas designed to make passengers feel less like cattle and ease the stress of flying.

“Airports have changed,” said Stacey Stegman, DIA’s vice president of communications, marketing and customer service. “It’s a competitive field for airports. It’s not like … we’re competing for local people to fly out of Denver. We know that we are their hometown airport. But what we are seeing is we compete for people who are connecting, we compete trying to get more flights here. If we’re offering things that are exceptional and more fun, that makes us more appealing.”

In the past three or four years, airports around the world have been boosting their amenity offerings — from miniature horse therapy at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, to the movie theater at Portland International Airport in Oregon and nature trails and a planned indoor forest at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

DIA and other airports are busy — and getting busier

More than 60 million travelers started, continued or ended trips at DIA last year, the airport’s busiest ever. And worldwide, air passenger traffic in 2029 is expected to be double what it was three years ago, the Airports Council International says.

Add to that shrinking seat sizes aboard airplanes and more fees, and that’s where stress-reducing amenities can make a difference.

“Having things like a pet pig or a llama, those things give a humanity to the airport and to the travel experience,” said Michael Taylor, who analyzes passenger satisfaction for J.D. Power. “Today there is just so many people going through airports — every airport sets a new record each month. There’s just more of a crush of people and the more you can introduce a human element and treat people like humans, that helps with the experience.”

DIA and the “art of airporting”

DIA officials say these extras are also a way to lure new airlines and flight routes, create incentives for passengers to connect through Denver and even attract local residents who aren’t getting on a plane.

“Our primary focus is on passengers first,” said Stegman. “We want to make sure we are meeting their needs. But if we can be great for the community as well and be a place where they want to come and spend time, that’s a good thing for Denver, and for the whole region.”

DIA even has a catchphrase for this all-things-to-everyone approach: “The art of airporting.”

These initiatives helped North American airports reach an all-time high in overall passenger satisfaction, according to a 2017 J.D. Power survey of more than 34,000 passengers. Denver ranked fifth among U.S. airports that have 32 million or more passenger visits a year, according to the survey, behind Orlando, Detroit, Las Vegas and Phoenix. (Newark’s Liberty International Airport was at the bottom of that list.)

Grooming another customer: The one who isn’t flying

But in Denver, air travelers aren’t the only people who’ve taken notice of the changes. According to DIA, about 20 percent or more of people who attend special events — such as beer tastings and the temporary ice skating rink — aren’t even there to fly.

Two days after New Year’s Day, DIA’s skating rink outside the Westin Hotel was booming, even at midday.

Lisa Hillman, of Denver, was there with her two sons for their second recent visit. They had no flight to catch but decided it was worth the 20-minute drive from home.

“We thought it was kind of odd at first to come ice skating at the airport,” she said as her boys laced up their skates. “But I think the way they have set it up is really nice.”

All of these things, of course, come at some cost: The ice rink came in at about $150,000, a limited run for goat yoga cost some $7,100 and uniforms for the Canine Airport Therapy Squad run roughly $130 a piece.

Those tabs are minuscule compared with DIA’s planned $1.5 billion gate expansion and $162 million operations and maintenance contract for the airport’s underground trains. Those are on top of a $650 million terminal building renovation that will significantly change the campus’ layout.

But airport officials say the amenities can more than pay for themselves and note that they are covered by revenues, not tax dollars. For instance, the ice rink had paid sponsorship and goat yoga, DIA officials say, had a $1 million-plus media value.

And the therapy dogs? DIA officials say you can’t put a price on relieving passenger stress.

“You’re definitely seeing a trend across the broader airport community,” said Scott Elmore, vice president of communications and marketing for Airports Council International – North America.

DIA’s amenities convey a “sense of place”

Elmore’s trade industry group, of which DIA is a member, recently did a survey of airport amenities and found a sharp rise in recent years. At the top of the list were nursing rooms for new mothers and pet potty areas (Denver’s airport has both.)

“Each airport is going to be doing things that show off their unique sense of place,” he said. “The one thing I can say about Denver is they do a great job of showing off what it feels like to be in the Denver area without having to leave the airport.”

That includes the booming Root Down restaurant in Concourse C, plans for a Denver Central Market and even a popup business called Yoga on the Fly, where travelers can get a quick zen fix.

“We’ve been really well received,” said the yoga shop’s owner, Avery Westlund.

The all-volunteer therapy dog squad might best capture Denver’s character, though, with nearly 100 canines (and one cat) it’s become the largest such airport program in the nation.

Gretchen Dirks’ young poodle Halston was a big attraction as passengers made their way through Concourse A on Jan. 3. As a wave of people stopped to say hello — “Can I touch him?” asked a Mexico City-bound man — Dirks remembered a time when the dog calmed a toddler on the brink of a meltdown.

“It’s a great way to kind of give back,” Dirks said.

  • DENVER, CO. - Feb. 20, 2015: ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    A United Airlines flight heads to the concourse after landing at the Denver International Airport on February 20, 2015.

  • Clint Sciacca, working for Denver International ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Clint Sciacca, working for Denver International Airport’s airside engineering group, shields his eyes from the morning sun to get a look at the iconic Boeing 747-400 parked at the United’s B-concourse at Denver International Airport Oct. 26, 2017. United’s Boeing 747 fleet is retiring from scheduled service Nov. 7, 2017 and will be replaced with more fuel-efficient, cost-effective wide body aircraft for long-haul flights around the world.

  • Planes can be seen taxing on ...

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Planes can be seen taxing on the runways the rooms at the new Westin DIA hotel at the south end of Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, on Nov. 19, 2015.

  • NOVEMBER 22: Short lines for holiday ...

    John Leyba, The Denver Post

    Short lines for holiday travelers at Denver international airport Nov. 22, 2016 as they head out during Thanksgiving week.

  • A Frontier airplane taxis to a ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    A Frontier airplane taxis to a runway on the west side of Denver International Airport Jan. 16, 2015. Frontier Airlines announced Friday that it is outsourcing over 1300 reservations and airport operations jobs in Denver and Milwaukee.

  • DENVER, CO - March 24: An ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    An American Airlines airplane taxis to prepare for takeoff at Denver International Airport March 24, 2016.

  • DENVER, CO. - Feb. 20, 2015: ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    The Denver Airport Westin is shown behind the “tents” of the terminal from the FAA control tower at Denver International Airport.

  • Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Southwest Airlines aircraft at Concourse “C” at the Denver International Airport February 20, 2015.

  • A United Airlines airplane taxis for ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    A United Airlines airplane taxis for a takeoff heading west at Denver International Airport

  • DENVER, CO - March 24: at ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Denver International Airport March 24, 2016.

  • DENVER, CO - Oct. 20: Denver ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Denver International Airport on October 20, 2016.

  • DENVER, CO - March 15: The ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    The inaugural Virgin America flight arrives at Denver International Airport from San Francisco to Denver March 15, 2016.

  • Delta ticketing/gate agent's reroute stranded passengers ...

    Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    Delta ticketing/gate agent’s reroute stranded passengers from line to line trying to keep flights together at the Denver International Airport after a Delta Air Lines complete shutdown. Aug. 08, 2016

  • Members of the Denver Broncos football ...

    Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post

    Members of the Denver Broncos football team arrive home at Denver international Airport on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016.

  • DENVER, CO - Jan. 05: Frontier ...

    Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Frontier Airlines employees prepare a plane for departure at Denver International Airport January 5, 2017.

of

Expand

L.A. Times staff votes to unionize in blow to owner Tronc

By Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial staff voted to unionize in a rebuke to owner Tronc Inc. that marks a new era in the newspaper’s 136-year history.

The employees’ union, NewsGuild, won the vote by a margin of more than 5-to-1, organizer Nastaran Mohit said Friday. The guild is an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America union, which has been organizing at the Times since late 2016.

“We respect the outcome of the election and look forward to productive conversations with union leadership as we move forward,” Tronc spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said in an email.

The vote heralds the beginning of a bargaining process that’s sure to prove contentious. Like the rest of the industry, the L.A. Times has been in almost constant turmoil in recent years, amid dwindling readership, falling advertising revenue, editorial shakeups and, most recently, allegations against its publisher. Meanwhile, the company that eventually became Tronc has lurched from bankruptcy to a spinoff to a change in ownership and, finally, a new name in under a decade.

Tronc shares were up 1.6 percent to $19.53 at 2:21 p.m. in New York, remaining near their highs for the day despite the outcome of the vote.

Tronc, whose other publications include the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, aggressively fought the labor drive in meetings, online and in emails. In a Jan. 3 email to employees that was reviewed by Bloomberg, L.A. Times Interim Executive Editor Jim Kirk and Editor in Chief Lewis D’Vorkin warned: “union leaders may tell you they can protect against layoffs but they didn’t at the New York Times, Huffington Post, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.”

“There was a time, way back when, when a guild couldn’t make headway in the newsroom, because the people were treated very well,” Paul Pringle, an investigative reporter who helped spearhead the drive, said in an interview before the vote. “Those days are over.”

Ballots for the union vote were counted Friday at a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, which conducted in-person voting Jan. 4 and has since been receiving mail-in ballots. If the result is formally certified by the Labor Board, Tronc will be required to negotiate with the Guild over a collective bargaining agreement. Among the issues to be addressed will be whether certain editors belong in the bargaining unit, something the parties were previously unable to resolve.

Union activists said their campaign was driven by employees’ desire to address compensation issues, protect journalistic integrity, and have a check on management amid concerns about Tronc’s agenda for the newspaper.

The NewsGuild’s organizing committee at the paper cried foul over management moves including a $5 million-a-year consulting agreement that Tronc signed in December with its Chairman Michael Ferro’s Merrick Ventures. On Thursday, the guild called for Ross Levinsohn, the L.A. Times’ fifth publisher in five years, to resign amid a report he had been a defendant in two separate sexual harassment lawsuits and admitted to rating his female colleagues’ “hotness” while also speculating whether one of them worked as a stripper.

In a statement Friday, Tronc said it is investigating the allegations after becoming aware of them this week. According to NPR, Levinsohn called allegations against him “lies” in a Wednesday phone call.

The L.A. Times was controlled for much of its 136 years by the Chandler family, before being sold in 2000 to Tribune Co., which was taken over by billionaire Sam Zell in 2007. The parent filed for bankruptcy shortly after, then emerged from protection in 2012 and and spun off Tribune Publishing in 2014. Four years later, Ferro gained control of Tribune Publishing and renamed it Tronc — for Tribune Online Content. The Times’ daily circulation now totals 273,752, a fraction of its April 1990 peak of 1.23 million.