New York Times selling 15 regional papers


They’ve been in advanced discussions, and now the trigger has been pulled: The New York Times Company is selling its Regional Media Group, consisting of 16 regional newspapers, other print publications and related businesses, to Halifax Media Holdings for $143 million in cash. Halifax, backed by private equity, bought the Daytona Beach News-Journal last year. According to a report, the local papers have a Monday to Friday circulation of 433,251 and 1,755 full-time employees.

The Regional Media Group includes:

•Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla.;
•The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif.;
•The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla.;
•Star-News in Wilmington, N.C.;
•Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, S.C.;
•Star-Banner in Ocala, Fla.;
•The Gainesville Sun in Gainesville, Fla.;
•The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Ala.;
•The Gadsden Times in Gadsden, Ala.;
•The Courier in Houma, La.;
•Times-News in Hendersonville, N.C.;
•Daily Comet in Thibodaux, La.;
•The Dispatch in Lexington, N.C.;
•Petaluma Argus-Courier in Petaluma, Calif.;
•News Chief in Winter Haven, Fla.; and
•North Bay Business Journal in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The largest, based on circulation, is the Sarasota, FL, Herald-Tribune. Under the Times Company’s stewardship, the newspapers within the Group have received three Pulitzer Prizes, including the 1971 Prize for editorials in The Gainesville Sun on the peaceful desegregation of Florida’s schools, the 1997 Prize for spot news photography for The Press Democrat for a photograph of a firefighter rescuing a teenager from raging floodwaters and the 2011 Prize for investigative reporting for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s year-long series on the challenges that Florida’s property insurance industry have posed for ordinary citizens.

The transaction is expected to close within a few weeks and upon completion of the sale, NYT will record an after-tax gain on the sale in Q1. The Company intends to use the net proceeds for general corporate purposes and estimates the net after-tax proceeds from the sale will be some $150 million.

In a statement to Regional Media Group employees, president and COO Michael Golden said he expected the “vast majority” of employees to be offered employment through the new owner.

RBR-TVBR observation: The NY Times Company is looking to cut costs and focus on its most important papers and their websites. Regional newspapers have struggled recently because of weak local retail and national advertising, partly reflecting economic problems in many regions, including Florida.