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. Employee may also reveal the details of this agreement to employee’s immediate family, accountant and attorney, but only if those individuals agree to keep confidential the information revealed to them.
The severance offer also includes a non-disparagement clause that prohibits signees from making “any disparaging or untrue statement about the company, its affiliates, owners, stockholders or about any employee of the company.”
No one in marketing who works out of the Tampa office was offered a position, three sources said. But marketing employees based in Lakeland were offered positions. All but one of the product managers were let go. All the developers and salespeople were offered positions, according to the sources. Staffers were told the paperwork could not be signed earlier than their separation date, which would be Feb. 10.
The centralized management team for the former New York Times Regional Media Group has handled sales assistance, marketing, business, digital development, IT and printing for the 16 papers across the country that were recently purchased by Halifax.
Those local news organizations also have their own journalism and sales staffs, who can expect to hear more lay off news over the next month or so.
By the terms of the sale, Halifax could only lay off a maximum 10 percent of the 2,000-person staff, but that requirement applied only to layoffs that occurred at the time of closing.
This week, two financial firms announced that they loaned Halifax about $74 million of the $143 million it paid the New York Times Co. for the properties.
Halifax created controversy earlier this year when it told former NYTRMG staff they would need to sign a noncompete agreement to stay with the company. Soon after Poynter and others raised questions about it, Halifax dropped the requirement.