Halifax Media Group LLC

NYT edges closer to layoffs

Good morning. Almost there. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. NYT may have layoffs, after all

    A memo from Janet Elder says the news org may not have enough buyout applications to forgo layoffs. "Early efforts to handicap the outcome regrettably point to having to do some layoffs." Also, if you take the buyout, MOMA will not let you in for free anymore. (Mother Jones) | Last month Keith J. Kelly reported that more than 300 people had filed buyout applications, but many were "just securing their rights and checking it out," Guild unit rep Grant Glickson said. (NY Post) | Floyd Norris is taking the buyout. (Talking Biz News) | More N.Y. Guild news: Eight Guild members who worked at Reuters' Insider video project are losing their jobs.

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Expansionary Halifax Media looks beyond its Southeast base for next buy

The Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette, long up for sale, reported Thursday that an executive team from Halifax Media Group had been in the building for several days of talks with management — a signal that the company is a likely buyer.

Halifax who? The Florida-based company, barely four years old, now has 35 dailies. With a billionaire backer, Warren Stephens of Arkansas, Halifax is pushing to the front of the line as mid-sized and smaller papers come up for sale. It bought the 16-paper New York Times Regional group for $143 million in December 2011 and 19 Florida and North Carolina dailies and weeklies from Freedom Communications six months later.

Halifax is little-known by design. Except for the occasional letter to readers, CEO Michael Redding typically does not do interviews (and I got no response to an email request that he discuss the company’s growth). Read more


Warren Buffett not yet done buying newspapers after purchasing 63 from Media General

Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway is buying 63 Media General newspapers, told the Omaha World-Herald, which he also owns, he’s not planning any future newspaper purchases, but he’d consider them:

“There aren’t a lot of buyers in the field whose checks will clear. … Any time we can add properties we like, to management we like, at a price we like, we’re ready to go.”

These purchases are not sentimental, said Wally Weitz.

“When it comes to Media General, it’s going to be all business,” Weitz said. “As a Berkshire shareholder, I have to assume that he knows more about investing in newspapers than anybody else, and he’s had decades of recognition that the business has changed and it’s not what it used to be.

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Halifax Media in talks to buy Freedom papers

Wall Street Journal | Richmond Style Weekly | Seeking Alpha
John Cribb thinks he knows why small- to mid-size newspapers remain attractive to investors. While many bigger papers have been flummoxed by the erosion of their missions and business models, their less hulking cousins still dominate newsgathering in their markets. “[T]here is franchise value there and it’s protected value,” says Cribb, whose company Cribb, Greene & Associates brokers newspaper sales.

Russell Adams reports that Freedom’s daily newspapers are wending their way toward new owners. Halifax Media, he says, is negotiating for Freedom’s Florida and California papers. Halifax bought the 16 New York Times Regional Group papers for $143 million in a sale that closed earlier this year. Those papers include Florida’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Gainesville Sun and the Lakeland Ledger. Read more

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Halifax lays off more than half of staff reporting to former NYT Regional HQ in Tampa

About 30 employees of the former New York Times Regional Media Group were notified Friday that their new employer, Halifax Media Group, has decided to lay them off and offer severance packages. The other 20 were offered positions, but only if they relocated to Daytona Beach, Fla., where Halifax is headquartered.

A letter accompanying documents distributed Friday said Halifax “has reviewed the company’s Tampa operations to see where additional efficiencies can be achieved by eliminating or consolidating certain job functions and operations.”

Employees “who were offered a package were told that they wouldn’t be given severance if they speak to the media or publicly discuss the situation,” said one source. A second source confirmed the confidentiality clause, which reads, in part:

Employees agree to hold confidential both the terms of this agreement and the circumstances underlying it, except [to] the extent that he is required to reveal information under legal process.

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NYT limited layoffs to 200 employees in sale to Halifax

In its deal to sell 16 regional papers to Halifax Media, The New York Times Co. limited layoffs to 10 percent of employees, according to an SEC filing from Dec. 27, 2011. Since the New York Times Regional Group employed about 2,000 people at the time of the sale, according to the Times’ Abbe Serphos, that means about 200 people could have lost their jobs when the sale was completed. Though the agreement required Halifax to provide the Times with a list of names of everyone it intended to let go, the Times is not commenting on whether Halifax laid off the maximum number.

In addition to the challenges they faced with a noncompete that has now been nullified, former NYTRG employees have been confused about whether they could work for The New York Times Co. Read more


Halifax requires former NYT regional employees to sign noncompete agreements

Halifax Employee Agreement
Employees at the 16 papers now owned by Halifax Media Group are being asked to sign an agreement that allows the company to fire them anytime but prevents them from working for media companies for two years in any other city with a Halifax property. Those include mid-size cities in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina. A tipster said employees have until tomorrow to decide whether to sign or lose their jobs. I also hear Halifax has a nepotism policy that prevents family members from working in the same newsroom. It’s unclear whether existing couples will be grandfathered in or asked to comply. || Previously: Halifax emails NY Times Regional staff about jobs Read more


Halifax emails NY Times Regional staff about jobs

Emails are arriving today to staff at the 16 papers The New York Times Co. is selling to Halifax Media. Employees are being told whether Halifax has decided to keep them or let them go. Here’s the “good news” email:

Dear Regional Media Group Colleague,

On Tuesday, Dec. 27, you received an announcement … that the Regional Media Group is being sold to Halifax Media Holdings LLC. We are pleased to inform you that Halifax has informed us that they will be offering you employment.

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New York Times announces sale of 16 regional papers for $143 million

The New York Times | News Release
Halifax Media is buying 16 newspapers from The New York Times in a deal that is expected to close within the next few weeks. The Times acknowledged the likely sale last week after Halifax prematurely published the newspapers’ names on its website, in a list of properties it owned. The regional papers are no longer as profitable for the Times as they once were, and the company is eager to invest in its digital future and other ventures. Halifax also owns the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which has cut staff and promoted a pro-business agenda since Halifax CEO Michael Redding took over, reports Rick Edmonds. In a news release about the sale, Redding said:

“The purchase of the Regional Media Group reflects Halifax Media’s belief that a good newspaper is an essential part of any vibrant community.

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Sale of New York Times regional newspapers a sign of increased dealmaking in industry

The New York Times Co.’s clutch of 16 midsized and small newspapers was a relic of the prosperous pre-digital days of the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, the very comfortable margins at these properties (mostly in the Sun Belt) provided reliable cash flow if the more competitive national and New York markets hit a bump.

Now the regional group is not as profitable, and its ad revenue continues to decline substantially as The New York Times’ stabilizes. Those papers probably have become more a management distraction than a cash cushion for the company. So the pending sale of the group to Halifax Media Group, while unexpected, is easy to explain.

The Times Co. can use the proceeds for the next wave of digital development at The New York Times. Read more

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