A Los Angeles-based private equity investment group has bought the Tampa Tribune from longtime parent Media General for $9.5 million, promising to improve the daily newspaper as it took control Monday morning.
Revolution Capital Group, a 3-year-old firm, is making its first foray into newspapers. The move marks a new chapter in the long-standing newspaper war between the Tribune and its larger rival, the Tampa Bay Times.
The acquisition, meanwhile, ends Media General's 150-plus-year involvement in the newspaper business.
"It's a bittersweet day for Media General to complete the sale of its last remaining newspaper group," Marshall N. Morton, company president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement. "The Tampa Tribune was our largest and second oldest newspaper. Many Tribune employees have decades of service."
Revolution Capital Group works with corporate sellers to buy their smaller, noncore assets that often have not been able to attract buyers, according to the company's website. So far, it has bought businesses in telecommunications, manufacturing and software.
Under the deal, the Tribune, its affiliated newspapers and website, tbo.com, will be operated by the Tampa Media Group, a locally based company created by Revolution Capital.
Revolution did not directly address whether there would be layoffs among the 618 employees of the new Tampa Media Group.
"Today is a big day; it's a celebration. We have new owners," Tribune publisher William Barker said in introducing top Revolution Capital executives to Tribune staffers Monday morning. Video of the announcement quickly surfaced on YouTube.
Revolution founder and managing partner Robert Loring and co-founding partner Cyrus Nikou said they wanted to grow the business and promised to support the staff. "You guys are really the experts and know the business better than anyone else," Nikou said.
Asked by a staffer whether they would add employees, Revolution managing director Aman Bajaj said: "It's not always that hiring more people is the best way to grow a newspaper. ... We are in the process of analyzing that."
Added Loring: "We just walked in here a couple hours ago. Give us a little time."
Barker told the group that he would stay on as publisher, and benefits would remain the same through the end of the year.
"I think the newspaper just got a lifeline," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "Based on what they told me, this group is in for the long run. They're not inclined just to shed assets."
Representatives of Revolution Capital did not respond to interview requests from the Times, and Media General spokeswoman Lou Anne Nabhan declined to comment beyond the news release.
The sales price of $9.5 million, after adjusting for working capital and other items, would yield net proceeds before expenses of about $2 million, Media General said. The company did not elaborate on what was included in the $7.5 million taken out of proceeds.
Gill Thelen, former publisher and president of the Tampa Tribune, said he was "stunned" by the low purchase price of the newspaper.
"It's a bargain for these guys. . . . They obviously see this as something which could be leveraged into a profitable business," Thelen added. "It shows the Tribune's strategy of being a small 't' Tampa paper (focused on the city's news) has value."
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