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Cox Enterprises reverses course, won't sell Valpak

It turns out Cox Enterprises is rather fond of those coupon-stuffed blue envelopes after all.

More than a year after saying it wanted to shed its Valpak direct mail operation in Largo, Atlanta-based Cox has decided to retain the business. The company began notifying its Tampa Bay area employees about the decision Thursday afternoon.

Cox Target Media, the direct marketing arm that oversees Valpak, is based in Largo. Valpak has had a major presence in Pinellas County, with about 1,000 employees at its plant and headquarters and another 100 at owned-and-operated locations.

Cox said it is encouraged that Valpak has a promising future as it aggressively enters new forms of media and generates new sources of revenue. Among other developments, Valpak.com has been optimized for mobile phones and released an app for the iPhone.

"Cox is pleased with Valpak's performance and (Cox Target Media president) Greg Bicket's leadership," said John Dyer, Cox's executive vice president and chief financial officer. "In a year of economic uncertainty, Valpak provides great cost savings for consumers."

Valpak, which forecasts about a 5 percent drop in annual revenue this year, has been cutting jobs and taking other steps to focus on its core mission. That focus includes turning many of its large-market distribution businesses into franchises. On Wednesday, the company said it signed a deal for Valpak executive Dan Harlacher to buy the Tampa Bay franchise.

Valpak built a $220 million printing facility in St. Petersburg three years ago, helped by job-creation incentives from state and local government. It's the largest privately owned industrial building in the county.

Entrepreneur Terry Loebel started Valpak in 1967 with a mailing to Clearwater households. He sold it in 1985 to a group of investors, who sold it to Cox in 1991.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242.

Cox Enterprises reverses course, won't sell Valpak 12/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 11, 2009 10:20am]
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