Tampa Bay Times sells headquarters for $19 million

The Tampa Bay Times on Friday announced the sale of its St. Petersburg, Florida headquarters for $19 million, becoming the latest regional newspaper to cash in on its real estate amid an industry-wide print advertising decline.

The Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by The Poynter Institute, sold the downtown building to 490 First Avenue Owner LLC, a joint venture of Convergent Capital Partners and Denholtz Associates, according to a press release.

The newspaper has signed a 15-year lease and will continue occupying nearly half the building, which will continue to carry its name.

"With this sale, we are able to continue contributing to the vitality of downtown St. Petersburg," Jana Jones, the chief financial officer of Times Publishing Company, said in a statement. "We are very pleased that the Times will remain a tenant and maintain its significant presence in the area."

The cash generated by the sale will help the Tampa Bay Times pay back Crystal Financial, a Boston-based firm that lent the Times $28 million last year. That loan comes due later this year.

Selling real estate assets to raise cash has become a standard move for financially pressed newspaper organizations.

Some of the large chains — Digital First and Tribune Publishing, for example — have created internal departments to manage and dispose of real estate.

A number of independent papers like the Tampa Bay Times have already sold their headquarters. Those include The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, The Seattle Times, and The Tampa Tribune.

Just this week in reporting disappointing first quarter earnings, McClatchy said that it will sell headquarters offices at three of its papers to pay down debt and meet pension-funding obligations.

The Times and other regional papers need much less office space than they used to as staffing levels have fallen significantly. Also, digital communication makes it less essential that all parts of the operation be in the same building.

Headquarters are typically in attractive downtown locations, so they command a good price among developers. The cash raised can cover operating losses or provide investment in digital operations.

The Times — and The Poynter Institute — have both also sold vacant land in recent years, purchased decades ago for future expansion that is now unlikely to happen.

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