Friday, January 30, 2009

At Reader’s Digest, Layoffs Are Part of ‘Recession Plan’

As publishers reel from the recession and a plunge in advertising, the Reader’s Digest Association said Thursday that it would lay off close to 300 people, about 8 percent of its work force, as well as put employees on unpaid furloughs and suspend contributions to their 401(k) plans.

The company said it was not closing any of its United States magazines or other businesses, but trimming all of its operations in 79 countries. In addition to publishing domestic magazines like the flagship Reader’s Digest and Every Day With Rachael Ray, it has dozens of magazines overseas and popular Web sites like, and produces dozens of books annually.

It recently started a new magazine and membership organization, Purpose Driven Connection, in partnership with the Rev. Rick Warren, the popular author and minister.

“We have announced a comprehensive ‘recession plan,’ which is our internal roadmap for dealing with the extraordinary effects of this recession on consumer spending,” Mary G. Berner, the president and chief executive, said in a statement. “We hope and expect that most of these moves will be temporary.”

Ripplewood Holdings, a private equity firm, bought Reader’s Digest Association less than two years ago in a deal that greatly increased its debt burden. The new management has been more aggressive about marketing new products, selling ads and trimming costs.

The company said it was eliminating the equivalent of 280 full-time jobs, out of 3,500 worldwide. It employs about 1,300 people in the United States.

It said it would impose unpaid time off “where permitted by laws and agreements,” both this year and in 2010, to avoid further layoffs. It did not disclose the duration of the furloughs, or say how many employees would be affected.
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