July 14, 2017

The owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team announced Friday that he is one of the four anonymous lenders who helped refinance the Tampa Bay Times.

“The Times is a critical local institution and a voice for our community,” Jeff Vinik told the Times in a statement. “As Tampa Bay continues to grow and emerge as one of the most significant metropolitan areas in the southeast, I believe that it is important to have a strong, locally owned and operated newspaper, with the resources necessary to retain its independent voice and place as one of the nation’s best.”

The Times, which Poynter owns, announced the refinancing June 30 in an article by Paul Tash, the chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times Co. Under the title “FBN Partners,” named after the Times’ longtime slogan “Florida’s Best Newspaper,” a group of eight lenders loaned the newspaper company $12 million. The move was an effort to refinance an outstanding $18 million loan from Crystal Financial, a Boston-based firm.

Four of the lenders chose to remain anonymous — a departure from business as usual at the Times, Poynter previously reported.

“Each investor had a choice. I encouraged all of them to be forthcoming — even beyond their own comfort, sometimes — which is how we wound up with the four of us,” Tash told Poynter at the time. “But these are not people who seek public attention or credit for what they’re doing. And some of their reticence is modesty.”

Vinik, who has owned the Lightning since 2010, is also the owner of the Tampa Bay Storm — an Arena Football League team — and a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox. In 2013, the Times reported the hockey baron’s net worth to be around half a billion dollars.

The three other anonymous lenders have yet to be named. The public lenders include philanthropists Frank and Carol Morsani, developer Ted Couch and Robert Rothman, part owner of the Washington Redskins. Tash and his wife, Karyn, also contributed to the loan.

In addition to the contribution from FBN Partners, the Times received a loan from Encina Business Credit of Chicago for up to $20 million, which was secured using Poynter’s assets as collateral. The newspaper company has not yet used the full amount, Poynter previously reported.

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Daniel Funke is a staff writer covering online misinformation for PolitiFact. He previously reported for Poynter as a fact-checking reporter and a Google News Lab…
Daniel Funke

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