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September 7, 2011
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Mass layoffs at Plum TV in Aspen, beyond

ASPEN - Though Plum TV on Tuesday announced a wave of massive layoffs - including all but two positions in Aspen - its mountain region publisher said the station will continue to broadcast locally and will debut a magazine this winter.

"Obviously, a massive restructuring happened today, and it was a big deal," said David Cook, who remains employed along with a regional sales manager. "But the main point I want to get across is that Plum is not going anywhere."

Cook said Channel 16 will broadcast "best of" footage through the offseason, which is its custom, and begin new programming in winter. And a magazine will launch in November, despite the fact Plum has suspended Plum Miami Magazine, which debuted in March, and has put its Hamptons magazine on the back burner until next summer.

"I am going to see this through," Cook said. "As we muddle through this pretty rough time, I will be in very close contact with the founder and the board, and we are going to really get back to the principles that Plum was created on and build on the success of the brand."

According to Plum spokesman Robbie Vorhaus, employees in Plum's eight markets - Aspen, Vail, Telluride, Sun Valley, Miami Beach, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and the Hamptons - learned Tuesday morning of the corporate restructuring plan, which included across-the-board layoffs. Vorhaus said he was not privy to the exact number of people who lost their jobs, nor specific numbers of layoffs in each market, but noted the number is "significant." Plum employed 85 people nationwide before Tuesday.

"It came to a point where Plum realized something had to change to preserve the brand," he said, explaining that, in short, that Plum felt the same troubles media outlets across the country have been since the recession: expenses outweighed income. "Unfortunately, this meant some drastic cuts to staff."

Cook said the cuts in Aspen included eight full-time staffers and many contract employees.

"It was difficult, of course," he said. "But I think when the CEO quit last week, everyone was tipped off that something was amiss."

Tuesday's news came less than a week after Plum CEO Jerry Powers resigned, citing financial issues. The Miami Herald quoted Powers as saying the company was deep in debt.

"You've got a board with billionaires looking over [85] employees whose checks might not clear," Powers stated. "After I started, the board gave us $4 million. But they didn't tell me about the $6.7 million in unpaid bills. The board put in another $5 million this year, and that ran out two weeks ago. On Thursday, the board refused more funding."

Tom Scott, Plum's chairman and co-founder, has taken over Powers' role. Still, questions loom, including a review of the company's accounting records by the New York State Department of Labor.

"If we were going to fold, we would have just closed the doors now, right?" Vorhaus said, in response to the question of whether Tuesday's news was the death knell for Plum. "We had to let go of a lot of talented people, but our intention is to take a step back and then begin rebuilding.

Cook is similarly confident in Plum's future, especially in the Aspen market.

"Plum will continue in Aspen ... that is the bottom line," he said.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 7, 2011 06:50AM Published Sep 7, 2011 02:27AM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.