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Questions raised on possible Tampa Trib sale

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Then there was one. Maybe.

Facing an expiring lease and the outsourcing of its printing operations to rival Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Tribune may be coming up for sale.

In a recent report, Noah Pransky of WTSP suggests that 121-year-old daily could be sold, even though its Los Angeles-based owner has not been forthcoming.

“Guys see below there is a leak here somewhere this is bs,” wrote Revolution Capital Group founder and managing partner Robert Loring Jr. in response to 10 Investigates.

Revolution bought the Tribune and its building in 2012 for $9.5 million. Last year, the firm sold the real estate for $17.75 million and made a five-year deal with the Times to handle the Trib’s printing.

Rumors of a possible merger between the Tampa Bay’s two major newspapers is nothing new. Talk of a Times/Tribune consolidation have been circulating for years, Pransky notes.

“This sort of speculation arises periodically,” Times published Paul Tash told WTSP. “We never indulge it or contribute to it.”

But time is running out for the Trib, which is actively looking for a new location for its operations and staff. And the need to move hundreds of staff members makes a sale much more appealing.

“To have an ownership group from California that owns just this one paper (is) pretty unusual,” says Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for Poynter Institute for Media Studies, the nonprofit which owns the Times. Edwards emphasized to Pransky that there were no plans for consolidation, but would not be surprised if the Trib was sold soon.

Pairing up the Times and Trib would leave the Tampa Bay area with one less outlet for editorial content and viewpoints, and fewer reporters to keep an eye for government overreach.

“There’s always some advantage to the reader in having competition, Edmonds said. “And two different news staffs out there.”

Pransky also raises the possibility another major newspaper chain will purchase the Trib. If that happens, it would likely be in the $5 to $10 million range, according to Edmonds. Another option would be an outside purchase, similar to the acquisition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Red Sox owner John Henry’s purchase of the Boston Globe, of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune being picked up by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

Such “benevolent billionaires” could express interest in purchasing a daily newspaper like the Trib, despite it not showing a regular profit.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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