Does request for zoning change indicate a sale of Tampa Tribune might be near?
The Tampa Bay Business Journal has an interesting story tonight asking if the request for a zoning change to the property in downtown Tampa which houses many of Media General's Florida news properties -- including NBC affiliate WFLA-Ch. 8 and the Tampa Tribune -- might indicate a sale of the newspaper is near.
According to the Journal, the Richmond, Va.-based company asked to split the newer, five-story building housing the TV station, the newspaper's journalists and the website TBO.com (known as The News Center) from the smaller building across the courtyard which houses the newspaper's printing press and assorted offices, along with a nearby four-story parking garage.
Rumors have been flying among Media General employees in Tampa that a sale might be announced this week for the newspaper to consummate the deal before or near end of the third quarter. Already, according to some talk, print staffers have made plans to move from the News Center into the smaller, older building.
The News Center was once seen as the core of the company's convergence strategy, merging staffers and content from print, TV and journalism. But Media General has since created greater separation between the TV station and the newspaper's operations.
There have been many such rumors since the company revealed plans to sell all its newspapers last year. During the week of the GOP convention, a rumor spread that the name of the newspaper was being taken off a sign on the five-story building; turns out, workers were just implementing some routine maintenance.
The Tampa Tribune was excluded from a $142-million deal announced in May in which superstar investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway company bought all of Media General's other newspapers, 63 outlets in all, allowing the company to largely exit the newspaper business. (the company announced Tuesday that Buffett's company has executed warrants raising its ownership stake in Media General to 16.6 percent as part of an agreement including a $400 million loan and $45 million revolving credit line.)
Back then, Media General insisted several companies were also interested in purchasing the Tribune, but would not name them.
Expect more tales to fly around until an official sale is announced.