The Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest newspaper, on Tuesday purchased the Tampa Tribune from Revolution Capital Group, saying it intends to create one financially secure, locally owned daily newspaper in the Tampa Bay region.
Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash announced the purchase at the Tribune headquarters in downtown Tampa on Tuesday afternoon.
“The continued competition between the newspapers was threatening to both,” Tash said in a statement. “There are very few cities that are able to sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them.”
Tash did not disclose the purchase price.
Starting Wednesday, Tribune subscribers will receive the Tampa Bay Times at their homes. The Times also will be available in retail locations where readers purchased the Tribune. The Times said it will carry all the advertising scheduled for both papers and honor all Tribune subscriptions and advertising contracts. After a brief transition, it will also carry all the comic strips and most puzzles that ran in the Tribune.
The Times has news and advertising operations in downtown Tampa and Riverview and has produced a distinct Tampa edition of the newspaper since expanding its footprint into Tampa in 1987. Because the papers have duplicate operations in most areas, Tash said there would be job losses at the Tribune. He did not specify a number but said it was likely to be at least 100. The current full-time staff is about 265.. Tribune staffers who are not retained by the Times will continue to be paid for 60 days.
The purchase marks the end of the 123-year-old Tampa Tribune as a standalone newspaper. It was started in 1893 when Wallace Stovall moved his existing news operations to Tampa from Bartow, according to Tribune files. Stovall’s first Tampa Morning Tribune debuted on March 27, 1893, and became a daily in 1895. The Tribune was sold by longtime owner Media General to California-based Revolution Capital in 2012 for $9.5 million. The investment capital group last July sold the Tribune’s headquarters on Parker Street in downtown Tampa for $17.75 million to South Florida developers who plan an apartment complex on the site. The Tribune, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1966, has been weakened, as has the Times, by decades of competition.
“It’s fair to say we’ve seen this day coming for a very long time,” Tash said in the statement. “We are committed to being Florida’s Best Newspaper to all of our readers and advertisers.”
Tash said the Tampa Tribune name will live on in a twice-weekly local news section for Hillsborough County readers, which will be added to the Times’ current Tampa edition. The Tribune section will offer local and neighborhood news including government, business, entertainment and sports news. The section also will include school news, religion news, real estate listings and the reader-generated Hometown Hillsborough feature. It replaces the Times’ current once-a-week community sections City Times, Brandon & South Shore Times and North of Tampa.
The Times said it plans to continue operation of the Tribune’s website, tbo.com, after a refinement of its content to better complement the Times’ website, tampabay.com. Tbo.com readers will be redirected to tampabay.com in the interim, the Times said.
Tash said the Times will also continue operation of several other properties previously owned by the Tribune: Centro, the Spanish language weekly newspaper; Highlands Today, a daily newspaper serving Highlands County; and the Suncoast News, weekly newspapers serving west Pasco and North Pinellas counties. Publication of tbt*, the free daily tabloid newspaper owned by the Times, will continue as normal, unaffected by the Tribune deal.
The Times, which remains one of the nation’s few independent newspapers, is owned by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalists. The newspaper began its history 131 years ago as the West Hillsborough Times out of Dunedin. It was known for most of its existence as the St. Petersburg Times, but changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times in 2012 to reflect the home territory it serves in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties. In April, the Times won its 11th and 12th Pulitzer Prizes, this time for local and investigative reporting.
Until 1987, the Times and Tribune had served opposite sides of Tampa Bay and had limited crossover readership. That year, the Times started a Tampa edition and opened offices in downtown and northwest Hillsborough. The Tribune countered with a move into Pinellas, sparking what was described as one of the great newspaper wars. Readers had a choice of daily newspapers, and reporters competed to break the best stories first. But the combination of the rise of the Internet, which shattered newspapers’ business models, and the Great Recession of the late 2000s took a toll on both papers. Like newspapers nationally, the Times and Tribune saw advertising revenues plummet to a fraction of their previous levels. Both papers reduced staff and shrunk the geographic areas they served.
In February, the Times announced it had won a contract to print the Tribune at its plant in St. Petersburg, as well as the Tribune’s affiliate publications and its commercial printing contracts.
In April, the Times sold its downtown St. Petersburg headquarters building at 490 First Ave. S to a joint venture of Convergent Capital Partners and Denholtz Associates for $19 million. The proceeds of that sale went toward the balance of a loan from Boston-based Crystal Financial LLC. Crystal is providing the financing for the Times to purchase the Tribune.
Source: TAMPA BAY TIMES