Reader’s Digest Faces Heavy Debts, Files for Bankruptcy Protection

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Parent company of nearly 100-year-old family magazine Reader’s Digest is heading into its second bankruptcy filing in less than four years. Reports indicate the move is intended to address excessive debts that have been weighing the company down for some time.

The New York Times reports that publisher RDA Holding has $1.2 billion in debt and $1.1 billion in assets. The plan, it says, is to turn $465 million of debt into equity and recapitalize debts.

Many print publications in the past decade have struggled financially, many of them folding or turning to bankruptcy to stay alive. Even with a current circulation of over 5 million readers, Reader’s Digest is no exception. 

In 2009, RDA underwent two major sales in bankruptcy; went to the Meredith Corporation for $180 million, while Every Day With Rachel Ray sold at $4.3 million. JPMorgan Chase became a major lender and then in 2012, Wells Fargo signed on as well.

Financing from lenders will keep the magazine going while it makes its way through a Chapter 11 filing. And like many in the same scenario, to come out of bankruptcy with room to grow means focusing time and money on digital endeavors. A well-known brand like Reader’s Digest may do well to build an online presence; with about 1.2 million likes on Facebook, they are off to a good start, but will have to take it the next level to compete with other publishing brands with an online focus. 

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