Make us your home page

Media General considers sale of newspaper operations

Media General Inc., the parent company of the Tampa Tribune, said Thursday it is exploring the potential sale of newspaper operations.

The Richmond, Va.-based media conglomerate said it has received inquiries from several third parties about buying "certain print assets."

Company spokesman Ray Kozakewicz declined to discuss which of its 23 papers may be sold or disclose any potential buyers.

The company hired banking advisory firm Peter J. Solomon Co. to help weigh its options.

Media General, which also owns WFLA-TV News Channel 8 and, has been under pressure to alleviate more than $650 million in debt amid sagging revenues.

Executives warned investors in January that the company is "uncomfortable with its ability to remain in compliance" with the terms of about $360 million in debt that comes due in March 2013. But lenders gave the company some breathing room with a short-term bridge agreement last week.

The company lost $74 million in 2011, with newspapers in particular hurting its bottom line. Revenues for its Florida print operations were down more than 12 percent to $75 million last year.

In December, Media General announced it was cutting 165 staffers at the Tribune and smaller nearby operations in Tampa, a 16 percent reduction.

Shares in Media General tumbled to nearly $1 a share last fall, but have since recovered somewhat. The stock closed Thursday at $5.01 a share.

The potential selloff of newspapers was disclosed after the close of market, spurring a 5 percent boost in after-market trading.

While the Tampa Bay Times is often mentioned as a potential buyer of the Tribune, company chairman and CEO Paul Tash said the Times was not among those who recently contacted Media General.

Nonetheless, "We're always interested in opportunities in the Tampa Bay marketplace," Tash said. "Our priority remains advancing our own success."

Among other potential Tribune buyers is Halifax Media Group, a company that recently bought a chain of papers owned by the New York Times, including the Sarasota Herald Tribune, the Ledger in Lakeland and the Gainesville Sun. Halifax CEO Michael Redding could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

The Tribune's circulation stands at 254,782 on Sundays and 125,867 during the week, according to the latest industry figures. The Times has Sunday circulation of 403,229 and weekday circulation of 240,024.

Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta in Tampa, expressed concern that the Tribune may fold at some point.

"When you have cut so deeply, as they have in their news department, it kind of takes away the only reason to buy the Tribune, which is news," he said. "It looked like the paper was headed down a road of no return."

Hillsborough County Commission Mark Sharpe lamented hard times for any paper, saying that newspapers help keep government honest.

"I never like it when I hear of the potential sale of a newspaper, particularly the Tampa Tribune, which has a long history in our community," he said.

Staff writers Bill Levesque and Bill Varian contributed to this report. Jeff Harrington can be reached at

Media General considers sale of newspaper operations 02/22/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 11:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  3. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park


    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  4. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers


    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  5. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]