Lee Enterprises says it is two years ahead of schedule paying off its billion dollar debt. The Iowa-based parent company of Bloomington's Pantagraph Newspaper says it reduced debt by nearly 100 million dollars in the recently ended fiscal year. The total for outstanding loans remains nearly $848 million. In the last five years Lee has cut cash costs for the company by 34%. At the Pantagraph, reductions have included numerous staff cuts, outsourcing printing, copy editing, and combining management functions with Decatur. The Pantagraph is also seeking a buyer for its building in downtown Bloomington and wants to lease back a portion of the space that it still needs for operations. The company says debt reduction should continue for several years under a bankruptcy reorganization plan. Lee leader Mary Junck says the company is proud that it is maintaining healthy cash flow as revenues have declined from changing economic and business conditions. Junck says Lee remains on track for a cost reduction of up to 5% for the year and hopes to cut costs by $10 million in 2014. Lee owns 46 daily newspapers and 300 specialty publications in 22 states including the Pantagraph and the Saint Louis Post Dispatch.
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