The longtime headquarters of the Santa Barbara News-Press was empty on Sunday, when news broke of the newspaper's bankruptcy. Emergency crews were in De la Guerra Plaza, however, treating an individual with a possible overdose. | Credit: Nick Welsh

More than 150 years of history ended on Friday when the Santa Barbara News-Press declared bankruptcy in a Chapter 7 filing by Ampersand Publishing, LLC. The online edition that day was the last news Santa Barbara will receive from the newspaper, founded as the weekly Santa Barbara Post in 1868, once the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 1962 for its editorials outing the John Birch Society, and owned by the New York Times before being bought by onetime billionaire Wendy McCaw in 2000 for a reported $110 million.

Thc Chapter 7 filing is for liquidation, not reorganization. Though a creditors’ meeting is set for September 7, 2023, the bankruptcy filing states, “No property appears to be available to pay creditors. Therefore, please do not file a proof of claim now.”

That appears to include the newspaper’s employees. In an email to staff, Managing Editor Dave Mason wrote: “I have some bad news. Wendy filed for bankruptcy on Friday. All of our jobs are eliminated, and the News-Press has stopped publishing. They ran out of money to pay us. They will issue final paychecks when the bankruptcy is approved in court.”

McCaw’s chief asset from a real-estate perspective has long been thought to be the paper’s printing plant in Goleta, to which the staff moved in April, abandoning the Spanish-Revival-style News-Press building on De la Guerra Plaza. Financially sustaining print jobs at the plant were canceled in June when the newspaper claimed power issues and moved to online publication only.

In the voluntary bankruptcy petition form, Ampersand indicates it has assets of less than $50,000, liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million, and owes 200-999 creditors. A resolution attached to the filing indicates that Ampersand resolved to file for bankruptcy at a meeting held around May 1, 2023.

The bankruptcy declaration does not put an end to the Santa Barbara News-Press stories, however. Publisher McCaw precipitated what came to be known as “the News-Press Mess” when she interfered in a newsroom story to such an extent that five editors and revered columnist Barney Brantingham walked out. There’s no way to encapsulate the upheaval in Santa Barbara that followed, as the staff voted to join the Teamsters union, which McCaw opposed, and subscribers ended their subscriptions in protest. At this point, McCaw owes around $3 million in back pay and raises, as well as fines for hiring temporary workers illegally, and the interest that has accumulated since about 2007.


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