The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com have a new owner.
On the market for several months, the Tribune and its associated partner have been purchased by a private equity investment group and will operate under a new company called Tampa Media Group.
Media General Inc., the Tribune's longtime owner, announced the sale to Los Angeles-based Revolution Capital Group today. The purchase price was $9.5 million, and the sale includes the Tribune's affiliated publications, such as Hernando Today and the Spanish-language Centro.
Media General will retain the Tribune's longtime television partner, NBC-affiliate WFLA Channel 8. Although the Tribune and WFLA will no longer be owned by the same company, they'll continue to function as news partners, according to TBO.com.
“It’s a bittersweet day for Media General to complete the sale of its last remaining newspaper group,” Media General president Marshall Morton said in a statement. “The Tampa Tribune was our largest and second oldest newspaper. Many Tribune employees have decades of service."
In July, Media General sold 63 of its newspapers and publications in the Southeast to Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The $142 million deal left Media General with 18 television stations, including WFLA.
The Tribune was the only newspaper not purchased by Berkshire Hathaway. Media General said at the time it was still shopping the Tribune and classified the paper as a "discontinued operation" in its financial reports.
Although private equity groups sometimes purchase companies because they see an opportunity to cut costs and sell them for a profit, Revolution has long-range plans for the Tribune, managing partner Robert Loring was quoted as saying in a TBO.com story.
"We are definitely in this for the long haul," he said. "We don't flip businesses."
The Tribune has undergone several rounds of layoffs in recent years while steadily losing market share to the larger Tampa Bay Times, and its viability has long been questioned.
Economic pressures on the newspaper industry and cultural changes in the habits of customers and advertisers have left few metro markets with two rival newspapers.
But Tribune publisher William Barker said the sale gives the newspaper and TBO.com new lifeblood.
"This deal gives us the opportunity to do what makes sense for this local market," William Barker said in the TBO.com story. "It gives us the ability to be outwardly focused and not worry about how some larger corporation leverages us."
According to TBO.com, Tribune and TBO.com employees will move from the modern News Center building they share with WFLA in downtown Tampa to an older building next door that formerly housed the Tribune newsroom.