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December 8, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus

I feel like I ought to say something profound right now about the fact that the Tribune Co. has, how shall I put this delicately, filed for bankruptcy protection, but it's so out of my hands I think I'll just keep on writing about restaurant trends and weird food products until someone tells me to do otherwise.
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:47 PM | | Comments (31)


Weird food...yes, we need weird food.

How about odd finds in ethnic markets? I've been trying to get up the guts to try the pickled pig skin I've seen around. Anyone had it?

So I guess we're not getting that blogware upgrade for Christmas?

EL, I was just wondering what might be going through your head right now. I don't have anything brilliant to say; hang in there and keep on blogging. Let us know if there's anything we can do.

Just an observation..but I think corporate America , generally, has its head so far up another part of the anatomy it is laughable (or not).
I heard that the head of Lehman Bros actually was seeking a bonus...
Chutzpah at its grandest

I heard that the head of Lehman Bros actually was seeking a bonus...

I read over on CNN that bonus is $10 million. The NY State Attorney General has expressed outrage.

My thoughts are with you. It is a difficult time for everyone. I do think that you write well, have interesting thoughts and don't forget a base of readers who would be happy to have you over for dinners, drinks and moral support. We truly are in this together.

Thanks to everyone. EL

EL, I feel for you and kinda know what it feels like, having been bounced from a good job because of corporate takeovers. Which is why I'm down here.

The contract my company has with the Navy base here runs out in a couple months. There seems to be no more work after that, they are feeling the crunch too. I actually got a call from the corporate office that told me my job was safe, whether here or they'd move me back to MD.

So like you, I just keep doing my job until someone tells me otherwise.

I thoroughly enjoy your reviews and columns, and this blog is the best there is.

so yes, bring on the weird food!

And Ms E, don't call off the B.A. trip!

Having been downsized once, I know that life goes on and one should experience it as much as possible.

EL... you were the first person I thought of when I heard the news. Such a sad state of affairs.

For my odd food suggestion: Artichoke soda, found at H-mart. It actually wasn't bad.

Hang in there, Elizabeth. I've been through Chapter 11 (back in the 1980's), and it's not fun. I don't know how it works when a parent company is doing it, though.

Definitely take what vacation days you can. I never did recoup all of the accrued vacation owed to me when the company didn't make it.

I wonder if Ted Venetoulis (sp?) and company still have the funds to buy the Sun now that it might be available?

Bankruptcy is actually good news for the shiort term. Many companies go through bankruptcy and come out stronger and more viable in the end.

I thought this was coming but hoped not because of you.

Has anyone actually tried roasted sheeps head I wonder?

Joyce W.-- I'm sure it wasn't because of Elizabeth!

Ha ha - Laura Lee, I worded that miserably! I meant, the only reason I cared about the Trib going under was because I didn't want anything to happen to our EL! Once again, the written word has failed to convey my meaning. No future in writing for this one!

Joyce, I've had it. I just nibbled a bit from it, but it was very tasty. Couldn't quite manage the brains and eyeballs. I'd cheerfully eat it again. Actually, I'd like another go at it, now that I'm older and more adventurous.

Laura Lee,

I think Joyce meant she knew it was going to happen, but hoped it wouldn't, for EL's sake.

Ah the problems with text only lol.

Lissa - much respect! I don't know if I could but I'd like to try!

Hal - this was in yesterday's BBJ -

Monday, December 8, 2008 - 1:17 PM EST | Modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 - 3:23 PM

Local investor group still interested in Baltimore Sun as Tribune Co. files bankruptcy
Baltimore Business Journal - by Julekha Dash Staff

Ted Venetoulis says local investors are still interested in buying the Baltimore Sun — sort of.

Venetoulis, who is leading the investment group, said the investors would need to figure out if the problems affecting the Sun and other papers are cyclical or permanent before striking any deal, this in the wake of Tribune Co., the Sun’s parent company, filing for bankruptcy protection Monday.
He also admitted that a lot has changed since Venetoulis and about 25 other investors first expressed interest in purchasing the newspaper in 2006. The economy has tanked. Car dealers and retailers — stalwart newspaper advertisers — are slashing advertising spending as they reel from sluggish consumer spending.

It’s tough to get financing. And the chorus of naysayers who question the future of major metropolitan newspapers has grown louder.

The investment group’s takeover of the paper hinges on two factors: Whether it can get a good price and whether newspapers will stick around, said Venetoulis.

“Troglodytes like me think there is still value in newspapers,” said Venetoulis, 72.

Venetoulis is chairman of two media companies, H&V Publishing Inc., which creates state tourism publications, and Corridor Media Inc., a business and political news magazine. The former Baltimore County executive is a self-described political junkie, having spent 15 years as a political analyst on WBAL-TV Channel 11.

Tribune officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The company said on its Web site Monday afternoon that it filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

“We’ll watch it closely,” Venetoulis said of the bankruptcy filing, noting that a filing can take years to resolve.

A variety of media outlets reported Monday that Tribune Co. has hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP, known for its bankruptcy and corporate reorganization practice, to advise it on how it can restructure its debt. The Chicago Tribune first reported the moves on its Web site Sunday night. Less than a year ago, Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell took the public company private in an $8.2 billion leveraged buyout.

Venetoulis has always said that his investor group would be careful to not pay too much for a paper and get saddled with debt.

Venetoulis, who has never unveiled the names of his fellow investors, could not say what the Baltimore Sun could fetch in a sale. He has not yet looked at its financials since Tribune does not break out the newspaper’s cash flow or other numbers. A Lehman Brothers analyst last year pegged its value at around $517 million.

In the past year, the Baltimore Sun has shrunk its pages and its staff. It has eliminated its standalone Maryland and Business Sections. A dozen Baltimore Sun union employees have voluntarily left the newspaper and another three were laid off last month. In August, the Sun eliminated 100 positions at the paper through buyouts, layoffs and attrition.

Last month Tribune Co., the Sun’s parent, posted a $124 million third quarter loss.

The newspaper, Maryland’s largest daily publication, saw its average Sunday circulation number fall 3.9 percent to 350,640 during the third quarter.

Having been through bankruptcy and being bought and sold a few million times (oh the joys of being in a startup during the 90's), you and everyone there have my utmost sympathy. There are some positives, such as the company is doing this voluntarily and is cash flow positive prior to debt service (which leads one to wonder if then the greatest problem involve the events of last year in which certain parties performed certain complicated financial maneuvering which appears to have worked as well as every other bit of recent financial gimmickry, but I digress).

So hopefully, all this means for the Sun is the retiring of a lot of bad debt that it was unwisely saddled with and the high likelihood of a new owner.

Joyce W. -- Of course I knew what you meant, I was just having fun at your expense -- sorry:)
And we all know Elizabeth is the reason the Sun still rises.

I thought of EL as well when I heard the news. The latest word is that this shouldn't really impact employees of the Sun, but we'll see. The reviews El writes and this blog are both great resources for Baltimore, and I hope they're around for a long, long time to come.

If the need arises, I think you've got a pretty vocal group of folks rooting for you.

Joyce, we were in Kyrgyzstan a year ago (that's right, a 10-letter country with only 1 proper vowel in its name) for my brother's engagement ceremony. The main focus of the cuisine at the dinner was sheep, and my dad had the "honor" of sharing the eyeballs with the fiancee's father - he even had to scoop them out of the head. He didn't seem to mind them too much... but the vodka may have helped.

Elizabeth, I lived through the sale of MCI to WorldCom; the bankruptcy of WorldCom and finally the sale of WorldCom to Verizon. I was laid off somewhere during that mess and can honestly say that it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. The only downside is, no money!

I am sure that someone with your great talent need not worry about employment, but I know that the whole process is disconcerting. We are all behind you. That includes Owl Meat Gravy the Exterminator.

Perhaps The Baltimore Sun should change the motto on the masthead from "Light for all" to "Morituri te salutant," the gladiators' traditional salute to Caeser: "Those who are about to die salute you."

change the motto on the masthead from "Light for all" to "Morituri te salutant

You're like a ray of golden sunshine cast down upon a field of unicorns licking dew from the clover.

This is for Shlomo.

That includes Owl Meat Gravy the Exterminator.

True of course, but how did you know? And I go by the term "The Discursivator" now.

You beat me to it. I hope Shlomo enjoyed the clip.

Hang in there, Elizabeth. I read there's a possibility that Ted Venetoulis might be interested in buying The Sun. I could be wrong, but I think it would be great if the local newspaper returned to local ownership. Let's all hope for good things! In the meantime, "yell" if you need help, someone to talk to...whatever. We're here for you!

Oh yeah, enjoy the hell out of B.A.!

Your dad was totally brave! And you are right, I'll bet the vodka did help. I think I could probably do other cuts off the sheeps head but I don't know about eyes. I'm kind of weird about eyes anyway - can't touch my eye, can't watch eye surgery, don't even want to watch people put in contact lenses, so that could explain a lot.

Shlomo loves to rock.

Hey thanks everybody; I had a dream about sheep's eyeballs last night.

Were the eyeballs happy?

Here's the Daily Show's take on the Tribune tribulations...

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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