Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Business

Tampa Bay Times completes refinancing with help from local investors

Four decades ago, a man named Nelson Poynter gave away this newspaper to protect its independence and local ownership. In that same spirit, a group of local investors is stepping forward with a loan of $12 million, part of a larger refinancing by the Times company.

The investor group, FBN Partners, has taken a mortgage on the buildings and 27 acres of land at the newspaper's printing facilities in central St. Petersburg. FBN stands for "Florida's Best Newspaper," the Times slogan going back to the days of Nelson Poynter.

The investors are drawn both by the interest on the loan and the chance to support the structure that Mr. Poynter created to keep the Tampa Bay Times from being acquired by a chain with headquarters somewhere else.

"Having a hometown newspaper is tremendously important to our region," said Frank Morsani, a business executive and philanthropist. "I'm not sure that people around Tampa Bay realize how lucky we are."

Morsani and his wife, Carol, have taken one of eight shares in the partnership. So have Ted Couch, Tampa developer and philanthropist, and Robert Rothman, chairman of a Tampa investment company and part owner of the Washington Redskins.

So have I, along with my wife, Karyn, a sign of our commitment to the Times and confidence in its future.

Some of the investors decline to be identified publicly, but all have big investments in the Tampa Bay region. Several have made huge charitable contributions to local institutions. The Times would be pleased to name them all, but will honor their individual preferences.

The loan does not give the investors a stake in the Times' ownership, or a say in the Times' news coverage or editorial commentary.

The group could grow by two more investors, which would bring the total loan to $15 million, where it is capped. The loan is for five years. The group is represented by Directed Capital, a real estate investment firm based in St. Petersburg.

The other part of the company's refinancing comes from Encina Business Credit in Chicago, for a maximum of $20 million. That loan is secured by the company's other assets — except the printing plant — plus the real estate at the Poynter Institute, which owns the Times.

"The Times has a long history of running a world class newspaper," said Bill Kearney, senior managing director of Encina Business Credit. "This is a good example of the type of financing Encina was established to provide, and we look forward to helping the management team execute their business plan."

The refinancing comes just over a year after the Times bought the Tampa Tribune and brought those customers into the Times' own operations. In a divided market, turning a profit was a tall order for both the Times and the Tribune. The first four months after the combination were rough, too, with more new expenses than revenues.

But we adjusted to the circumstances we found. Starting last fall, the Times has shown substantially improved financial results and consistent operating profits. Newspaper publishing is not an easy business, but it can be a sound one.

This refinancing is a major step along that road for the Times. The injection of new money lets us replace the lender that financed the purchase of the Tribune, make contributions to our pension plan and add fresh working capital for the company's operations. Both loans carry lower interest rates than we have been paying to our previous lender.

Beyond the financial benefits, the refinancing shows a commitment from several leading citizens to the Times and the role it plays in the civic life of Tampa Bay. Born in the back of a drugstore in 1884, the Times has become one of the 10 biggest newspapers in the country, and in Florida, it is the biggest by far.

It is also the only big Florida newspaper where the company CEO wakes in the morning to read his own local newspaper, where his wife teaches in the public high school, and where his daughters have come back from college to start their own careers. When I make a speech at a Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce, I don't fly in from another state. Sometimes I can walk.

Unlike many other American cities, the Times' roots still run deep throughout the Tampa Bay region, thanks in part to those who have watered them today. Those investors can expect a nice return on their investment. So can everyone else who calls Tampa Bay home.

Paul Tash is the chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times and the Times Publishing Co.

Comments
Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Madeira Beach rethinks commitment to ferry

Madeira Beach rethinks commitment to ferry

MADEIRA BEACH — When most members of the current City Commission ran for office they pledged to impose tighter fiscal controls on spending taxpayer dollars.It was obvious Tuesday they haven’t changed their minds. The commission’s latest target is a f...
Published: 04/25/18
Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Sales of condos and townhomes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 9.5 percent in March, hitting a median of $156,000. The price gain was prompted in part by a supply shortage, with sales down 7.5 percent amid a dwindling inventory. Statewide, sales also lag...
Published: 04/25/18
Seminole council does full flip-flop on kratom sales

Seminole council does full flip-flop on kratom sales

SEMINOLE — In a rare move, City Council members reversed themselves on a unanimous vote to ban the sale of kava and kratom within city limits, agreeing — once again unanimously — not to bring the ordinance to a second reading.The "consensus vote" to ...
Published: 04/25/18
Against neighborhood and city staff wishes, Clearwater Council greenlights storage facility

Against neighborhood and city staff wishes, Clearwater Council greenlights storage facility

CLEARWATER — Skycrest residents showed up to City Hall recently and begged elected officials not to let a developer knock down an aging office building in their neighborhood and build a storage facility in its place.Planning and Development Director ...
Published: 04/25/18
Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans will return to the pier in fanciful form.A California artist has been selected to create an enormous, red origami sculpture of a pelican that will serve as a metal perch for three more lifelike, but no less fanciful, imitati...
Published: 04/25/18