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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Creative Loafing newspapers in Tampa and Charlotte, N.C. sold to Nashville company

10

October

creativeloafingauction-cover.jpgCreative Loafing Inc. announced today the sale of its newspapers in Tampa and Charlotte, N.C., along with the resignation of its CEO, in a move company officials said would allow them to focus on bigger newspaper markets.

The company's corporate headquarters will shift from Tampa to Atlanta following the sale, which transfers ownership of the two newspapers to SouthComm Inc., a Nashville-based publisher which has bought three other alternative weekly newspapers since it was founded in 2007. Terms of the sale were not made public. SouthComm owns The Nashville Scene, Kansas City Pitch and Louisville-based LEO alternative newsweeklies, along with a chain of medical newspapers and other titles.

Creative Loafing CEO Marty Petty -- who served as publisher of the St. Petersburg Times for nine years, leaving in 2009 -- also resigned. She did not return a call requesting comment.

creativeloafinglogo.jpgNo employees besides Petty will lose their jobs in the transition and the names of the newspapers won't change, said Tammy Bailey, vice president and Chief Financial Officer for Creative Loafing. With a smaller chain, Petty "didn't feel like there was a need for the CEO role," she added.

"It's the same writers, same editor, same publisher...We don't think anyone on the street is going to notice a difference," said Bailey, noting SouthComm will focus on midsize markets, freeing Creative Loafing to concentrate on its remaining newspapers in larger cities: Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

Last year, Creative Loafing shuttered its Sarasota newspaper, licensing the name to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a year. The deal with SouthComm similarly allows another company to control newspapers bearing the Creative Loafing name.

Former CEO Ben Eason originally moved Creative Loafing's corporate offices to Tampa, purchasing the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper back in 2007 with visions of turning the chain his family had owned for 30 years into a platform for a national web advertising business. But the deal's $30-million loan instead drove the company into bankruptcy as the newspaper industry crashed; the biggest debtor, New York-based Atalaya Capital Management, took control in 2009.

Eason, who now runs a firm consulting with daily newspapers on digital products, fears the latest moves are just another example of the print industry's slow decline. "Creative Loafing's story is the same as the newspaper industry," he said. "We're moving toward the end, here."

[Last modified: Monday, October 10, 2011 5:41pm]

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