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Times Publishing Co. faces lawsuit from Nelson Poynter's widow

CHRIS URSO   |   Times The sign for the Tampa Bay Times is seen Monday, Dec. 17, 2018 in St. Petersburg. A lawsuit on behalf of Marion K. Poynter seeks $7.8 million plus interest from the company that owns the Tampa Bay Times.
CHRIS URSO | Times The sign for the Tampa Bay Times is seen Monday, Dec. 17, 2018 in St. Petersburg. A lawsuit on behalf of Marion K. Poynter seeks $7.8 million plus interest from the company that owns the Tampa Bay Times.
Published Dec. 17, 2018

The trust benefitting the 92-year-old widow of Nelson Poynter has sued Times Publishing Co. in federal court, claiming it is owed millions of dollars.

The suit on behalf of Marion K. Poynter's trust names her late husband's former newspaper company as a defendant. It was filed two weeks ago in U.S. District Court in Virginia and seeks $7.8 million plus interest. Mrs. Poynter lives in Fauquier County, Va.

The St. Petersburg Times had been in the Poynter family since 1912. When owner Nelson Poynter died in 1978, he left most of the stock in the company to the Modern Media Institute, a school he had established to train journalists and preserve the independence of the Times. The school was later named for him.

The trust to benefit Mrs. Poynter was established in 1990 when the company warded off a potential hostile takeover of the then-St. Petersburg Times. Times Publishing Co. granted a note to the trust in return for Mrs. Poynter's stock in the company, with payments of roughly $1 million a year during her lifetime. The company suspended payments in May, citing the sharp increase in the price of newsprint caused by tariffs on Canadian imports.

"Even so, the Times has paid approximately $25 million to Mrs. Poynter's trust," said Sherri Day, spokeswoman for Times Publishing Co. "We regret that Mrs. Poynter and her representatives have taken this step, and we still hope that this matter can be resolved amicably."

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