As we suspected the moment we read about the Tampa Bay Times refinancing plan, Jeff Vinik has been revealed to be one of four ‘secret lenders’ to the newspaper company.
A week ago, Times CEO Paul Tash explained in a column that the media company has accepted a $12 million loan made in part by anonymous lenders as part of a larger refinancing by the newspaper company. Of the eight local lenders to The Tampa Bay Times, only four were named; Tash and his wife, Karyn, are among the named investors, along with three other philanthropists and business executives.
This left many wondering who are the other four investors, described by Tash as all having “big investments in the Tampa Bay region.”
In a blog post, SPB first questioned if the investors might be developer/philanthropist Bill Edwards or Jeff Vinik.
Turns out that not only were we right, but its our probing which prompted Vinik to announce his role in the Times’ refinancing.
Here are five things I think I think about this blockbuster revelation.
1. Please don’t construe anything here as criticism of the Times refinancing its debt or Vinik jumping at the opportunity to play a role in that. Hundreds of Times employees are better off by this capital infusion, so unless the money was coming from Vladimir Putin, the deal itself is a good thing.
2. The biggest winner in all of this is Vinik. His plans for world domination, err, redeveloping downtown Tampa depend on a viable newspaper to broadcast the ‘good news’ about what’s happening there. Two million dollars is a small price to pay for a world-class propaganda machine that doubles as a Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization.
3. Tash owes his readers an explanation about how the entire refinancing deal came about. Did the lenders approach him or did he approach the lenders? If he approached the lenders, how long ago did he do that? Did he approach certain lenders first? How exactly did Vinik come on board?
Tash insists that the lenders will not have any input into the editorial direction of the newspaper. But we know that’s fake news because it was the lenders who insisted they remain anonymous and Tash obliged.
3a. Times editors need to quickly explain how it will now cover all of Vinik’s enterprises. Will there be a disclaimer at the end of stories? If not, why not?
3b. If you don’t think a deal like this will impact news coverage, someone please direct me to the first story from the Tampa Bay Times that is critical of Vinik’s decision to brand his project “Water Street Tampa.”
4. I never, ever, ever want to hear another word again from Mary Ellen Klas or Craig Pittman or Michael Van Sickler or Adam Smith or any of my other critics at the Times/Herald about what they think about my business dealings. The Times publisher a) entered into a company-saving business deal with not just a subject the newspaper covers but arguably the top newsmaker in the region and b) attempted to keep it a secret. At least the political clients who do business with me have to disclose to the state what they pay our company.
5. I previously teased that, with this deal, Tash was now swimming in my end of pool. That’s inaccurate. What he is doing — remember three of the lenders are still secret — is on par with how Sunshine State News operates because it also does not disclose its ownership. Remember when the Times’ Lucy Morgan took a hatchet to SSN for its mystery ownership?