Stephens Media Suspends 401(k) Match Program
By Gwen Moritz and Mark Hengel
2/5/2009 10:05:01 AM
Stephens Media LLC, the Las Vegas newspaper company owned by Little Rock's Stephens family, has informed employees that their retirement plan contributions will no longer be matched.
"Effective with the payroll beginning January 31, 2009, matching contributions to the Stephens Media Retirement Savings Plan (401k Plan), will be temporarily suspended for the remainder of the year," President and CEO Sherman R. Frederick wrote in a letter to employees dated Jan. 31. "I take this step reluctantly, but it is necessary in order to help us maintain the financial health of the company."
Frederick could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.
Stephens joins several newspaper companies in suspending 401(k) match programs. Morris Communications, which owns the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway, Suspended Its Retirement Match This Summer. GateHouse Media, which owns several Arkansas newspapers, suspended its match effective Jan. 1.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's parent company, Wehco Media, has not suspended retirement matches, but has implemented a hiring and wage freeze in its newspaper division. Wehco has also Asked Employees To Cut Hours Voluntarily.
Stephens Media owns the daily Southwest Times Record at Fort Smith, the Pine Bluff Commercial and The Morning News at Springdale, as well as numerous weekly papers and the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, which provides state government news coverage for Stephens papers and other subscriber newspapers. The company did a round of layoffs in late 2008.
In the letter, Frederick said that all of the company's newspapers "have been significantly affected" by "an uncertain and challenging time" in the industry.
"Some of the hardest blows of this recession have been thrown at Las Vegas, our largest market," he wrote.
Frederick's letter said Stephens Media would take "several early actions in 2009 to help us weather the current economic storm," but it only described two: the suspension of the 401(k) match of up to 3 percent of each participating employee's salary and a wage freeze for "all publishers and managers of the company, including myself."
Copyright © 2009, Arkansas Business Limited Partnership. All Rights Reserved.