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Heartland Publications LLC, the owner of 23 daily newspapers and other publications in nine states, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday after agreeing with its major lender on a plan to cut the company's debt load by more than half.

The privately held company is one of at least a dozen newspaper publishers forced into bankruptcy protection by the recession, which dampened advertising sales in an industry that was already seeing readers and advertisers migrate to the Web.

In its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., Heartland reported assets of roughly $134 million and debts of $166 million.

Heartland spokeswoman Rivian Bell said the company's top lender, GE Capital, has agreed to reduce what it is owed to $70 million from roughly $111 million. In exchange, the financial-services arm of the industrial conglomerate General Electric Co. would get a 90 percent stake in the company.

Bell said the company's largest unsecured creditor, the hedge fund Silver Point Finance LLC, would get the remaining 10 percent ownership stake in exchange for the roughly $44 million it is owed, though Silver Point has not yet agreed to the reorganization plan. Silver Point did not respond to a request for comment.



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