Skip to comments.Tampa Bay Times Financials Strained
Posted on 03/01/2014 6:22:01 AM PST by shortstop
The Tampa Bay Times organization faces financial strains. The company is shedding assets and looking to lease bureau buildings, and took out a $28 million short-term loan to pay down debt and fund operations.
Times Holding Company Revenue: (in millions)
2013 Not disclosed
$28 million loan due in December 2016
Bureau building in Clearwater: Sold
Employee Cafeteria: For Lease or Sale
Bureau building in Port Richey: For Sale
Bureau building in Brooksville: Half of space for lease
30,000 square feet in headquarters: For Lease
The Tampa Bay Times bills itself as Florida's Best Newspaper. Nationally, it has been held up as a potential model for how journalism might succeed as other newspapers in the U.S. struggle or even close.
Behind the scenes, however, the St. Petersburg-based paper's financial records, loan documents and real estate transactions paint a picture of a shrinking company under increasing financial strain.
Revenue at the Times and its sister publications is half what it was five years ago, and the paper has been selling assets around the region. More recently, the newspaper took out a $28 million loan, backed by its headquarters and other property due in December 2016.
That's a pretty short term, said Edward Atorino, a media analyst with Benchmark Co. The bank must think this is not a business where they have a lot of long-term faith that it will survive, so they need to get their money back fairly soon. The people who own that newspaper business they'll need to make enough money to pay that all back, or the lender will just take the company.
Far from just a financial matter, how this plays out for the Times could significantly affect the local media landscape. The Tampa Bay area remains one of the few U.S. markets with two competitive daily newspapers The Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times. Times officials declined to answer questions about the newspaper's finances, but a review of their financial records show a company in declining financial health.
Originally, Times' patriarch Nelson Poynter established a nonprofit journalism school in 1975, and his donation of the Times to the school insulated the paper from takeover by outside interests. For years, the Times financially supported its parent, but then the national recession hit, and recently the Poynter Institute for Media Studies said the paper was no longer a viable source of support.
In July 2009, the Times started selling assets to raise cash for itself.
The Times sold the publication Congressional Quarterly, in part to extinguish its debt, Times officials said. (The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources estimating the price was about $100 million.) Four months later, the Times sold niche magazine Governing for an undisclosed sum to e.Republic, a Sacramento, Calif. company with ties to the Church of Scientology.
The Times was able to pay off a $35 million mortgage from Bank of America in May 2011, and yet the paper started selling more properties. In October 2011, the Times began a round of layoffs to lower our costs in this terrible economy, according to a memo sent to employees by Editor Neil Brown, and sold a news bureau building in Clearwater to the City of Clearwater for $2.2 million. Then it sold a Pinellas County shopping plaza to a Walmart affiliate for $1 million.
The most rapid-fire transactions came in 2012. The Times announced a deal in February 2012 to sell an employee parking lot to an apartment developer, saying it had shed so many employees it no longer needed so much parking.
The company a month later turned to a smaller lender for more financing. In March 2012, the Times took out a $13 million mortgage from Community Bank & Co. backed in part by the Times' headquarters building plus the same parking lot the Times had announced it would sell a month before.
In June that year, the Times listed its employee cafeteria for lease or sale, the elaborate Tramor next to the headquarters, because it was underused. Asking price: $2.75 million. Ultimately, the parking lot sold for $6 million.
Late last year, the Times turned to Boston-based Crystal Financial LLC, a lender that says it provides liquidity to companies that require more debt capital than is currently made available from traditional lenders.
The Times pledged at least six parcels of land to obtain a $28 million loan from Crystal, including its headquarters. The loan comes due in December 2016.
Going with a non-traditional lender typically means higher interest rates, Atorino said.
When you go non-traditional, it's going to cost you more, he said. The worst-case scenario is the newspaper goes out of business and the guy who made the loan ends up owning the building and the land under the building.
Crystal officials did not respond to requests for an interview, but on their website, they posted a case summary of the Times loan, saying about half the money went to pay off other loans, while the other half went to operational initiatives. As a condition of the loan, the Times pledged their current assets and machinery and equipment.
Those assets continue to dwindle.
Though the Times changed its name from the St. Petersburg Times to The Tampa Bay Times, commercial real estate advertisements show the Times is trying to unload properties around that region. The Times is trying to lease out half a news bureau building in Brooksville that it built only 10 years ago. And the Times is also trying to sell a news bureau and production building in Port Richey, 8.5 acres included. And it is trying to lease out up to 30,000 square feet of unused space in its headquarters.
Meanwhile, there's less revenue. In 2009, revenue for all of the company's publishing interests was $274 million, according to Poynter's most recent tax filings. Then it fell to $159 million in 2010, then fell to $151 million in 2011, and flattened out at $151 million in 2012.
In the meantime, the Times has been exploring new revenue streams. After years of offering online news for free online, the Times began charging for access to its news website in September, even for current newspaper subscribers.
And take the Mpls Star and Des Moines Register with them.
Don’t get your hopes up.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (which had editorials endorsing Kerry for 21 straight days) has gone bankrupt TWICE and is still losing money to this day.
YET - It continues to publish every day...
Soros will spot them a few million to stock up on barrels of leftist ink.
Unreported campaign contributions to Democrats, like most big city dailies. And look for them to give away lots of free copies/subscriptions around election time.
Here's another followup sure to be highlighted by the Tribune this weekend: Poynter Institute's Struggles Mirror the Times.
I loved this part:
While Times reporters have often investigated nonprofits and charities and the paper has published an ongoing series titled Americas Worst Charities, Poynter stumbled in getting its own nonprofit properly registered with the state.
Poynter failed to file paperwork with Florida to register as a nonprofit entity until 2009, decades after the Times patriarch Nelson Poynter established the school.
Remember, the Tampa Bay Times is the organization that publicizes Politifact.
Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts BUMP! Just the excuse I needed to shop for fabric and yarn!!
Not that I needed one, but I do tend to ‘vote’ with my dwindling discretionary dollars. :)
Anybody that is in the newspaper business MUST know that their days are numbers. It is stunning that this is such a shock. Of course they are going to lose revenue every year. Heck by the time a newspaper comes out the news is moldy and discussed inside and out over and over. Even conservative papers are in jeopardy. I get the Catholic paper from my diocese and know that it is a mater of time before I get a notice saying this is your last paper, we have gone exclusively on-line. I seriously think this ever issue and pleasantly surprised that I will get at least one more hard-copy issue.
In October 2011, the Times began a round of layoffs to lower our costs in this terrible economy,
So, were they reporting on the “terrible” economy at that time, or touting the party “recovery” line?
Grew up in that area. St Pete Times now the Tampa Bay Times is so far left wing that every subscription should come with a Hammer & Sickle flag and autographed photo of Lenin.
Will be glad when it happens to the NY Slimes, Washington Compost and the Nightly Network News on any broadcast channel(no more Sawyer, Shieffer, Williams, et al).
‘...hope this rag goes under and takes their hack columnists and liberal suck ups with them...’
Agree!! Would love to see Fox’s Roger Ailes take over....justice!
“After years of offering online news for free online, the Times began charging for access to its news website in September, even for current newspaper subscribers.”
Generally, entombing your digital content in a bunker like this is close to the last step towards bankruptcy for a media publishing outfit, either that or a diminution of its influence to the point that its simply fades away like the faint buzzing of mosquitoes in the very far distance, possibly slightly annoying, but of no real consequence.
My heart sings with joy each and every time I watch a Progressive/Democrat/Socialist media outfit plummeting to its doom in such fiery death spirals.
I'd throw him a couple of pennies, with an accompanying "For all the great work you did protecting my country from fascism and governmental excess".
I used to have family in St Pete back in the late 90’s thru about 2004.
Back then, the St Petersburg Times (which by the way, I hadn’t heard they changed their name) was not a good newspaper. You could sense the leftist bias even back then.
I would buy the Tampa Tribune. Their news was better and although I couldn’t call it a GOP-leaning newspaper, I thought their editorial pages were more well-balanced.
Roger that. Why didn't they just change their name to the Stalingrad Times I'll never know.
Don't you mean "Leningrad Times" ;)
Geography Schmeography. But I bet you can't see Leningrad from your house.
And what is the name of the city that used to be called “Leningrad”?
They took out a huge loan on a headquarters that was already mortgaged?
Some wealthy socialist might come in and take it over like with the Wash Post
Let the leftist media eat each other up
Those hack columnists and liberal “reporters” have no place to go. There too many blogs to read so what will they do?
I saw that sign! From deck 3 of the ship I worked on!
Die Commie Rag, Die.