Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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Civic Skinny

Big payday set for Mell Meredith and Tom Meredith.


Mell Meredith and Tom Meredith — the two senior members of the founding family of Meredith Corp. — control Meredith stock that will be swapped for $182 million in cash as well as large stockholdings in the consolidated company after Meredith Corp. is purchased by Media General Inc. next year, according to a document filed Sept. 14 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under terms of the merger announced Sept. 7, Meredith Corp. stockholders will receive $34.57 in cash for each share of stock held as well as 1.52 shares in the combined company.

The document filed on Sept. 14 says Mell Meredith Frazier has sole power over 1,917,822 shares of Class B common stock and 61,884 shares of common stock. She also has shared voting power and “shared dispositive power” over another 1,172,082 shares of Class B common and 99,612 shares of common.

Her brother, Edwin T. Meredith IV — known as Tom — has sole power over 2,020,213 shares of Class B stock and shared power over those 1,172,082 shares of Class B and 99,612 shares of common stock.

Assuming that the stock under shared power is split between them, that adds up to 5,271,613 shares. And 5,271,613 multiplied by $34.57 equals $182,239,661.40. The two would also get a combined 8,012,851 shares in the new Meredith Media General company. At last week’s price of $11.30 a Media General share, those eight million shares would be worth about $90.5 million.

Prep Iowa

All the proceeds won’t go to them, however. According to the filing, 600,000 of the Class B shares they control are held by a charitable trust and 92,412 of the common shares by a private foundation.

This assumes, too, that the two huge stockholders — the family controls more than 60 percent of the stock of Meredith Corp. — will receive the same cash-and-stock payout that other stockholders get. Asked if that’s the case and if Cityview’s reading of the SEC document was correct, Art Slusark, the head of investor relations at Meredith, said simply, “I refer you back to our public filings.” He also said Meredith will file a merger proxy document next month that will answer the questions. (One question was what percentage of the combined company the siblings would own.)

Mell Meredith Frazier is a director and vice chairman of the company. Tom Meredith has no position at the company. Their father, E.T. (Ted) Meredith III, was chairman of the company, which was founded in 1902 by his grandfather. Ted Meredith died in 2003, and his widow, Katie Meredith, died last December. …

Bryce Miller, the Des Moines Register sports columnist (and onetime sports editor) who left in one of the many Locust Street downsizings, will become a columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune. He’ll cover the Chargers, the Padres, San Diego State and anything else that strikes his fancy.

He’s looking forward to it. “One assistant editor told me he moved into a place a year and a half go and still hasn’t turned on his heat OR air-conditioning. You wake up — and voila — it’s 77 degrees every day. That part sounded good to me, too,” he told Cityview. No start date has been set.

And Joe Lawler — described by a former colleague as “once a ponytail-wearing news assistant who became a great music reporter” — has left the Register after 13 years. He now is “content manager” at Blue Compass Interactive, a West Des Moines company that helps clients in their digital marketing and web-design efforts, among other things. His successor at the Register: Matthew Leimkuehler, who describes himself as “a former-DIY-touring-bassist-dude-gone-music-writer-because-it’s-a-lot-less-dirty.” …

The deadline for running in municipal elections is now past, and it looks like there will be just one truly competitive race in Des Moines. Marty Mauk and Linda Westergaard are running for the Ward 2 seat on the east side being vacated by Bob Mahaffey, and it could be close. It’s a key race. It’s generally believed Mauk would tend to line up with Mayor Frank Cownie and at-large member Skip Moore (an east-sider) while Westergaard would more likely line up with Chris Hensley on the seven-member council. Most council votes are unanimous, but every once in a while there’s a split — either in the backrooms or in the council chambers itself — and those splits can be on pretty important issues.

South-sider Joe Gatto, who won a special election last year, has no opposition as he seeks his first full four-year term. Cownie has only token opposition — from the unknown Anthony Taylor — in his bid for a fourth term as mayor, and at-large incumbent Chris Coleman shouldn’t be too worried by his challenge from Loren Esse. Coleman beat Esse four years ago by nearly a three-to-one margin.

Few people seem to care about council elections. Two years ago, only 15,241 voters — 12.61 percent of the electorate — showed up to vote. Four years ago, the turnout was 4.39 percent, according to County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald.

Thirty-three other persons are running unopposed in various municipalities in the county, according to Fitzgerald, while 19 posts are being contested. …

Bubu Palo, Hunter Breshears and Grace Breshears settled out of court last week. Palo is the former Iowa State basketball player. Hunter Breshears is the former coed he slept with — but, according to the courts, did not rape. Grace Breshears is the mother of Hunter Breshears. Palo had accused them of defamation, among other things. …

Stephanie Gifford, the former wife of Marty Tirrell, filed for personal bankruptcy this month, a fallout from her divorce this year from the sportscaster who is as glib off the air — convincing ticket brokers and others to front him hundreds of thousands of dollars that he never repays — as he is on the air. Tirrell himself filed for bankruptcy protection — for the third time — earlier this summer. CV

Comment: The young killer

Three years ago, 17-year-old Isaiah Sweet shot his grandparents to death in their home in Manchester, in northeast Iowa. His grandparents were his legal guardians, and he shot them with an assault rifle. The relationship had been stormy for years.

Last year, he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, and District Judge Michael Shubatt sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sweet’s public-defender lawyer appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, urging it to rule categorically that no juvenile in Iowa should be sentenced to life without parole. The court recently said there is a presumption against life without parole for juveniles — but not a categorical bar — and the United States Supreme Court has said that such a sentence was permissible, but only in rare circumstances.

Sweet’s lawyer argued that this is not one of those rare circumstances. The state said it is.

The court heard the case last week. A video of the argument is on the court’s website. It lasts 38 minutes, and it’s fascinating.

There’s no doubt it was a brutal murder. There’s no doubt it was committed by a juvenile. And there’s no doubt the justices were troubled by the case. Their questions to both sides were penetrating.

The issue boils down to this:

Wouldn’t it be better, asked Justice David Wiggins, to have a parole board assess the situation years from now rather than to have a court make a binding decision now to send a juvenile to prison for life without the chance of parole? “For us to guess now as to what’s going to happen” to Sweet’s progress or lack of it in the future “seems to me a little Draconian.”

And he noted that the possibility of parole doesn’t mean the granting of parole. “If he’s not rehabilitated…he’ll die in jail.”

That, of course, makes sense. Juveniles, even juveniles who murder in cold blood, ultimately mature. Perhaps 45 years from now a parole board will find that Sweet is irreparably corrupt and must stay in prison until he dies. But perhaps it will find that he has been rehabilitated, that his mental illness — and anyone who kills the way Sweet did is mentally ill — is a thing of the past and that he could re-enter society as a useful senior citizen.

Why take away that option?

• • •

The only person who didn’t seem troubled by the district court’s sentence was Tyler Buller, the assistant attorney general arguing for life without parole.

“There is no question,” the young lawyer confidently told the justices, “that if Isaiah Sweet is [some day] released he will kill again.”

Psychiatrists don’t know that. Judges don’t know that. Wardens don’t know that. Priests don’t know that.

How does a 27-year-old assistant attorney general know? CV

— Michael Gartner

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