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Tampa Bay Times borrowed $13.3 million to finance Tribune purchase

The Tampa Bay Times building in downtown St. Petersburg. (RON BRACKETT  |  Times)

The Tampa Bay Times building in downtown St. Petersburg. (RON BRACKETT | Times)

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Times took on about $13.3 million in new debt just before it purchased its main competitor, the Tampa Tribune, according to a mortgage filed Wednesday in Pinellas County.

The mortgage does not say what the Times paid for the Tribune, and Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash said the amount borrowed is not the purchase price.

That's because the debt includes money for costs such as professional fees associated with the transaction.

Under the purchase agreement between Times Publishing Co. and the seller, Revolution Capital Group of Los Angeles, the purchase price cannot be disclosed unless both sides agree. Tash said he would be happy to say what the price was if the sellers agreed.

Revolution founder and managing partner Robert Loring said he would have to talk to his lawyer and to Tash before discussing the purchase price.

"I've got to figure out what I can and can't say," Loring said.

The mortgage recorded Wednesday reflects the latest installment of financing the Times has taken out over the past three years with Crystal Financial of Boston.

After selling its building and buying the Tribune, the Times now owes Crystal $18 million.

"Compared to a few weeks ago, we have less debt and a much more promising business plan," Tash said. "That is the essential message here: Our debt is down and our business prospects are up."

The debt is secured by seven pieces of property that Times Publishing Co. owns, including the newspaper's printing plant on 34th Street N in St. Petersburg.

The Times announced the purchase at 3 p.m. Tuesday, ceased publication of the Tribune and temporarily redirected traffic from the Tribune's website to its own, tampabay.com. The Times has said it plans to continue operation of the Tribune's website, tbo.com, after adjusting its content to complement tampabay.com.

Revolution bought the Tribune from its previous owner, Media General, in October 2012 for $9.5 million.

Since then, Revolution has sold the Tribune's headquarters and riverfront property at 202 S Parker St. in Tampa to the Related Group of Miami for $17.75 million. The developer plans to tear down the building and replace it with 400 apartments or condominiums, plus a waterfront restaurant.

At the time of the 2012 sale, a newly formed parent company for the Tribune had 618 employees. By the time the newspaper was sold to the Times this week, the payroll was down to about 265 employees.

Tash said he did not yet know how many Tribune staffers would lose their jobs, but expected it to be at least 100 or more. The rest will receive 60 days of pay.

Tash said he recognized that closing the Tribune is painful to those affected, but added that the Tampa Bay area was one of the few metros in the nation that still had two daily newspapers, and the market could not sustain the health of both.

"The continued competition between the newspapers was threatening," Tash said in a statement announcing the acquisition. "There are very few cities that are able to sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them."

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com. Follow @Danielson_Times.

Tampa Bay Times borrowed $13.3 million to finance Tribune purchase 05/04/16 [Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2016 7:37am]
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