Nelson Poynter’s widow sues Times Publishing Co.

December 18, 2018

The widow of Poynter Institute founder Nelson Poynter has sued Times Publishing Co., the entity that oversees the Tampa Bay Times, in federal court.

The suit alleges that the company owes the Marion K. Poynter charitable trust several million dollars, following a deal in the 1990s in which Marion Poynter, now 92, used her stock to help the paper to avoid a hostile takeover. In return, her trust was to be paid about a million dollars a year from the paper.

The suit, filed two weeks ago in court near Marion Poynter’s home in Fauquier County, Virginia, seeks $7.8 million and interest.

According to the story in the Times, Nelson Poynter left most of the company’s stock to what is now the Poynter Institute when he died in 1978. He did so to preserve the independence of his newspaper, which was at that point called the St. Petersburg Times and had been in his family since 1912.

The Times suspended monthly payments to the trust in May, blaming newsprint price increases.

“The Times has paid approximately $25 million to Mrs. Poynter’s trust,” the story quoted Sherri Day, spokeswoman for Times Publishing Co., as saying. “We regret that Mrs. Poynter and her representatives have taken this step, and we still hope that this matter can be resolved amicably.”

Poynter President Neil Brown said, “This is a dispute between Mrs. Poynter and the Times. We are sorry to see it come to that, but hope the parties will reach a settlement. It has no effect on the finances or operations of the Poynter Institute.”