Facing an imminent employee walkout, Americano Media, a struggling company that styles itself as a version of Fox News in Spanish, has until Friday to find an investor to keep the Miami-based enterprise afloat, but conversations with a potential buyer are still in its initial stages and the parties have yet to agree on how much the operation is worth.
When the heads of Americano Media and Voz Media met on Thursday, Voz owner Orlando Salazar presented an offer in which his company would absorb Americano’s heavy debt burden while making a symbolic $1 payment to its owner, Ivan Garcia-Hidalgo.
But Garcia-Hidalgo, who founded Americano Media in March 2022 as a conservative news and commentary site, found those terms unacceptable even though his operation is on the verge of bankruptcy and he appears to be running out of time to save it. Americano staffers who have not been paid for more than two months say they will leave Friday if no agreement to save the company and pay their back salaries is reached.
“The offer is for a dollar, so it’s not a serious offer,” García-Hidalgo told the Herald. “However, we have met with Orlando and did have a conversation with him, and we have agreed for us to send him a proposal on what a real offer would look like.”
García-Hidalgo said that the offer was so low that it would only cover one fifth of the money owed to employees.
Some of the company’s staffers told the Herald they believe the hold-up to an agreement is García-Hidalgo’s insistence on not walking away from the company empty-handed.
As of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Texas-based Voz Media, which owns Miami’s Mega TV, had not received García-Hidalgo’s counteroffer.
An official with Voz Media said the company was ready to explore a new proposal that would save Americano Media from disappearing, and would compensate more than one hundred employees who have worked without pay. But the official, who asked that his name not be used, stressed that there are limits to what his company is willing to pay.
“We are willing to help, but we don’t have a blank check,” the official said. “We are not in a situation to just blatantly write whatever number [García-Hidalgo] wants, or that he needs, because it is a big number.”
The company official said that while Voz Media had yet to receive the counter offer, the chances of the parties reaching a deal before the Friday deadline really depends on García-Hidalgo.
García-Hidalgo said that his team has also been talking to other potential investors to see if they would be willing to come to the rescue.
Friday is crucial because a large number of employees had agreed to keep the radio operations going for one more week while waiting for a deal to come through. Americano Media airs its radio programs in Miami on 790 AM.
Other areas of operations, online TV and online news, have already ceased their activities, with employees agreeing to take a furlough, but radio is key because if its microphones go silent, a number of deals made to broadcast its signal nationally could unravel.
Desperate to get paid, employees were working on a petition asking García-Hidalgo to make all efforts to reach a deal with Voz Media. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 40 employees had signed the petition.
Employees told the Miami Herald that this situation has left most of them with severe financial difficulties, with some unable to make rent or mortgage payments, and others going without health insurance.
Some of the staffers said they were angry because they felt used, accusing García-Hidalgo of tricking them into working without pay while promising on different occasions that the company was about to get, or had already secured, the money to make payroll. Company emails shared with the Miami Herald confirmed this.
In an email sent to the Herald after the initial posting of this story, García-Hidalgo said that he always told employees that he did not expect anyone to work unless they got paid and that when the emails were sent the company had secured the funding, but that the money fell through.
Orlando Avendaño, digital deputy editor of the online operations, urged García-Hidalgo not to waste more time.
“Delaying the sale or an agreement that allows the payment of employees is cruel and unacceptable. The priority of the CEO of Americano should not be his own interests or even the continuity of the company, which can no longer continue, but the urgent search for a way to pay off its debt,” Avendaño said in a text message.
“More than 100 families have suffered a great deal,” he said, adding that Americano’s problems are not the result of the project’s potential but rather its management. “Let’s be clear: The potential has not been lost and is still intact. It just has to be in the right hands.”
While it has not been made public how much money the company owes, observers said it is substantial as the company spent heavily to acquire a top-of-the-line TV and radio operation.
Americano Media was launched in March 2022 with a $1 million investment, and the company later got another $20 million through equity and debt from investors backing Garcia-Hidalgo’s vision to build a Fox News-like network in Spanish. The company sought to build a vast syndication platform across key political markets nationally ahead of the upcoming 2024 elections.
Speaking to the Washington Post in April, Garcia-Hidalgo said that he aimed to have those stations running by the end of the year to potentially reach 10 million listeners and boost the percentage of Latinos voting Republican in the 2024 presidential election.
While agreeing that there is still promise for the development of a conservative network for the Spanish-speaking audience in the U.S., Americano Media employees told the Herald there were flaws in the plan’s execution.
“What happened in Americano is due to bad management on the part of its president, and not, whatsoever, on the idea that conservative news media does not have potential in Spanish,” said Alfonso Aguilar, former senior vice president and political director of the company who said that he resigned a few days ago because he was not satisfied with the media group’s business plan and the CEO’s vision.
“This is a great tragedy,” he added, “because we have here more than 100 employees who have not received salaries for more than two months and the problem during all that period is that we kept on being told to relax because the money was about to come in.”