December 17, 2014

Media: Transition- Southwest/Tampa Bay- May 2004

Amy Welch Brill | 5/1/2004
As majority owner of the St. Petersburg Times, Nelson Poynter wanted to ensure that the newspaper he had built over more than three decades would remain independent and not subject to the financial demands of a newspaper chain. Poynter left his shares in the company to a school for journalists he created that's known today as the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Poynter structured the overall organization so that one person, the company's chairman, would control the newspaper's business operations and guide its editorial content.

Poynter, who died in 1978, chose Eugene Patterson as his successor. When Patterson retired in 1988, he chose Andy Barnes, who will retire at 65 on May 15 and pass that responsibility to Paul Tash. Barnes had announced Tash as his successor in 2000, naming him editor and president. This month Tash, 49, will become chairman and CEO and remain editor. Tash will also become chairman of Florida Trend, which is owned by the Times.

Barnes leaves the newspaper debt-free, with rising circulation. But his tenure was not without a struggle. The biggest challenge he faced came just months after taking the helm in 1988. Nelson Poynter's nieces, who inherited only 6% of the total shares in the Times but 40% of the voting shares, sold those shares to Texas financier Robert Bass. Bass sued the Times to gain what he said was a more equitable share of dividends, essentially trying to grab control of the company.

"How frightening I thought this was," Barnes says. After a protracted battle, the Times settled with Bass in 1990, buying back the shares for $56 million.

Under Barnes' leadership, the paper has grown into the largest in Florida based on daily circulation, surpassing the Miami Herald. The paper added bureaus and waged a campaign to penetrate the home county of its competitor, the Tampa Tribune, launching the Brandon Times and the City Times, both regional sections. The Times also bought the naming rights to the former Ice Palace arena in downtown Tampa, now called the St. Pete Times Forum, in an effort to increase its presence in Tampa.

A journalist by training, Barnes says he learned quickly that he had to be flexible in making business decisions. "You can't always keep doing what you've always done and make money," he says.

Barnes says he'll most miss the daily exchange of ideas with reporters and editors in the newsroom. He's confident that Tash will realize the paper's ultimate goal of becoming the only major newspaper in the Tampa Bay area. "Look at all the cities where there's only one newspaper. It will happen here, and I'll be damned if it's not us," he says.

Tash says he's keenly aware of both the business mandates of the job and his role as steward of Poynter's journalistic ideals. He says that he may be the last chairman of the Times to have actually known Poynter, a mythical figure to most of the paper's current journalists.

"While I feel an enormous sense of gratitude to Andy and to Gene (Patterson), if anything I feel an even higher obligation to Nelson, who through intermediaries has entrusted his life's work and fortune to somebody he knew only as a 20-year-old kid," Tash says.

IN THE NEWS

Clearwater -- Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback was suspended for five days in March without pay for acting in an unprofessional manner, city officials say. Brumback sent an e-mail to the Draconian Times, an underground online publication produced by Clearwater firefighters who use the site to vent about city officials. Although the content of the e-mail was not disclosed, a firefighter brought the e-mail to the attention of the city through his attorney.

FLORIDA TRENDLINE?POPULATIONBy 2025, 4.8 million people are expected to call an eight-county portion of southwest Florida home. That's up more than 1 million residents, or 32%, from the current population. Here's where the growth will occur:


Source: West Central Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization, 2025 Regional Long Range Transportation PlanFort Myers -- FindWhat.Com (Nasdaq-FWHT) has launched a joint venture with New York-based Thomas Global Register, a publisher of global business-to-business internet directories, to create ThomasB2B.com. FindWhat.com will provide technology and other support services to Thomas B2B.com's worldwide online paid listings service provided by Thomas Global Register.

Lakeland -- Fibertech, based in Salt Lake City, has bought the former Owens-Brockway factory in Lakeland, where it plans to employ 300 to 400 to manufacture specialty glass products starting in early 2005.

Largo -- J.C. Penney is selling its 2,775-store Eckerd drugstore chain to both CVS Corp., which is based in Rhode Island, and the Canadian Jean Coutu Group for $4.52 billion. The 1,000 employees at Eckerd's Largo headquarters will be employed with the Coutu Group.

Palm Harbor -- New Orleans-based Whitney Holding Corp. has acquired Palm Harbor-based Madison BancShares (Nasdaq-MDBS) in a cash and stock deal worth about $61 million. Parent of Madison Bank, Madison BancShares has about $200 million in assets and three branches. A fourth is expected to open next month.

Port Richey -- Toshiba American Medical Systems has picked the Florida Institute for Advanced Diagnostic Imaging as the only facility in the nation to test patients for osteoporosis using state-of-the-art, 3-D scanning technology. With the technology, patients will receive bone-density test results 75% faster and more accurately than with the traditional X-ray. The institute is also just one of three sites nationwide to participate in Toshiba's national cardiac study using new MRI technology.

Sarasota -- Medical Education Technologies will provide Canada's Department of Defense and a German anesthesiologists group with 30 Emergency Care Simulators each. The ECS units simulate breathing, bleeding, talking, blinking and other physiological characteristics for emergency medical training. The company, with about $22 million in sales, has sold the simulators to more than 400 organizations worldwide.

St. Petersburg -- First Advantage Corp. (Nasdaq-FADV), an employee and apartment resident screening firm, recently acquired two firms: Landlord Protect, a New Jersey-based resident screening company, and Proudfoot Reports, an employee screening firm based in Illinois. Financial terms were not disclosed.

BB&T Insurance Services of Raleigh, N.C., has bought Iler Wall & Shonter Insurance in St. Petersburg for an undisclosed price. BB&T Corp., parent of BB&T Insurance, announced it was buying Republic Bancshares of St. Petersburg for $436 million earlier this year.

American Collegiate Financial Services, a student loan consolidator, is moving its headquarters from Seminole to St. Petersburg. The company is planning to add 300 full-time jobs with an average annual wage of $50,000, according to St. Petersburg officials.

Tampa -- Kash n' Karry Food Stores is changing its name to Sweetbay Supermarkets in an effort to attract more shoppers. The chain is remodeling its existing 103 stores over the next three years.

WellCare Health Plans has acquired Harmony Health Systems, the largest Medicaid managed care company in Illinois, with 85,000 members. WellCare has revenue of more than $1 billion and operates Medicare and Medicaid managed care plans in Connecticut, New York and Florida.

Downtown Revitalization
THUMBS DOWN

CLEARWATER -- Clearwater residents shot down six of 11 proposed charter amendments in March, including a plan to build a marina, amphitheater and garage at Coachman Park, key goals for the city's revitalization efforts downtown. The defeat marks the 11th time since 1960 that residents have voted against downtown redevelopment plans.

Tags: Southwest, Tampa Bay

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