In a rescue attempt, Publicitas had asked the publishers for a meeting on Wednesday. Afterwards, the more than 125-year-old traditional company sent out a communiqué stating: "Publicitas is fighting for 800 publishers' votes.
As there were no replies, Publicitas extended the deadline for comments from 10 to 14 May. Now, before the deadline expired, it turned out that too few publishers showed interest in the new business model. On Ascension Day, the employees received an invitation to a Skype conference on Friday morning. The company employed around 270 people in Switzerland.
Publicitas had applied for provisional debt-restructuring moratorium on 3 May. The new business model was part of the restructuring plan. The core of the plan was a commission model, which was intended to reduce the risks for the media houses. A debt haircut was also to be implemented. In addition, the publishers were to take a 50 percent stake in Publicitas in future.
Administrator Urs Boller confirmed to news agency SDA an initial report from the media portal Small Report. He himself had filed for bankruptcy, and Publicitas had done the same. The application for a provisional moratorium had been withdrawn.
It is assumed that one or the other legal dispute could flare up over the legacy of Publicitas. The Ringier publishing house has already filed a lawsuit. It is directed against an assignment agreement for claims between Publicitas and the financial company Thalos from Luxembourg, as communications head René Beutner reported in the online edition of the Swiss daily newspaper "Die Presse". Handelszeitung on Friday.
The Luxembourgers had concluded the assignment agreement with Publicitas to guarantee a restructuring loan of CHF 15 million in February. In the event of bankruptcy, Thalos is thus given preference over the other creditors.
The publishing house Tamedia also has an assignment agreement with Publicitas. According to Tamedia spokesman Christoph Zimmer, the contract has been in place since 2016, when the contract was due for renewal and the flow of payments stalled. Whether media companies will take legal action against publisher president Pietro Supino's Tamedia publishing house because of this has yet to be seen. Zimmer stated that the agreement with the Luxemburgers was not comparable with the Tamedia contract. It hardly concerns advertising services by Thalos for the benefit of Publicitas.
Successor company in planning
Publicitas had run into difficulties after more and more publishers ended their cooperation with the company. Tamedia was the first to pull out, followed by other media companies. They all complained about poor payment practices and outstanding accounts.
Tamedia spokesman Zimmer explained that the development was not positive for anyone, including Tamedia. Waiting would have made the situation even worse. Tamedia, NZZ, AZ Medien, the "Corriere del Ticino" and the Swiss Media Publishers Association announced after the application for debt-restructuring moratorium for Publicitas that they would set up a new company to handle media campaigns. Ringier was not on board for the time being.
Like the media houses, Publicitas suffered from the marked decline in print advertising. The company has been in the red several times in the past, has withdrawn from foreign business, has been shrunk and restructured. (SDA / ank)