NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gannett Co Inc, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, will make workers take a week off without pay because of what it called some of the most difficult economic conditions it has ever experienced.
The move could help Gannett avoid more layoffs, Chief Executive Craig Dubow wrote in a memo to employees on Wednesday.
"This means that most of our U.S. employees -- including myself and all other top executives -- will be furloughed for the equivalent of one week in the first quarter," Dubow wrote.
Gannett, which publishes USA Today, the largest U.S. newspaper by circulation, is instituting the furlough after cutting thousands of employees from its payroll to deal with a severe decline in advertising revenue.
"We have made some very difficult decisions this past year, all with the goal of keeping Gannett strong and preparing for the future," Dubow wrote. "I understand I have asked a great deal of you, and I regret adding to your burden with this program."
The company does not know yet how much money it will save because of the furlough, a spokeswoman said.
Dubow in November said that he would take a voluntary 17 percent cut from his annual pay in a show of solidarity with other workers at the newspaper chain.
Dubow's 2008 base salary was $1.2 million, according to Gannett's 2008 proxy statement. His total compensation, including bonus, stock awards, options and deferred compensation, is about $7.5 million.
Gannett and other U.S. newspaper chains are facing dark days in 2009 as ad revenue declines accelerate because of an advertising cutback brought on by the world financial crisis. In addition, people continue to drop their printed newspaper habits in favor of reading free news online.
Several other newspaper publishers, including the Washington Post Co, the New York Times Co, McClatchy Co and Tribune Co, have resorted to buyouts, layoffs and similar moves to reduce costs.
Gannett said in December that it expects its 2008 revenue to be $6.8 billion, down about 8 percent from last year.
The company's shares fell 27 cents, or 3.35 percent, to close at $7.80 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares have fallen about 77 percent in the past 12 months.
Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Derek Caney, Bernard Orr