Why City Pages could suck very soon

Categories: Imported

The Cleveland Free Times, by the way, was relaunched in 2003 by Kildysart LLC

http://laweekly.com/ink/03/20/news-blume.php (above)

http://aan.org/gyrobase/Aan/ViewCompany?oid=oid%3A112923

http://www.freetimes.com/

http://aan.org/gyrobase/Aan/viewCompany?oid=oid:15

owned by

My employer is part of a chain owned by Weiss, Peck & Greer, L.L.C., , which purchased the Village Voice and other papers from Leonard Stern in 2000 (as detailed here). Other investors include the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Weiss, Peck & Greer's parent company is the Dutch-based Robeco Group, which is 100 percent owned by the Rabobank Group (which, in turn, is owned by 350 local Rabobanks).

Weiss, Peck & Greer is now a division of Robeco Investment Management

Village Voice buys City Pages, 1997

Weiss, Peck & Greer is now a division of Robeco Investment Management.

As of the end of September, 2005, information on this site for Weiss, Peck & Greer can be found at http://www.robecoinvest.com/

As of the end of September, 2005, this site will be discontinued. You will be redirected to www.robecoinvest.com

Cleveland Free Times

http://www.freetimes.com/

 

 

Why should you care who owns City Pages? Because whatever you think of the newspaper, it could get a lot worse if the New Times chain takes over Village Voice Media, which has owned City Pages (and this web site). Yesterday the San Francisco Bay Guardian posted a comprehensive editorial on the rumors of a merger: "If there's a grain of truth here, and VVM and New Times are in any sort of talks, the implications for the alternative press and for readers, advertisers, and employees in 18 cities are too serious for federal regulators to ignore." For background,

 

http://www.gawker.com/news/village-voice/village-voice-to-sell-soul-to-new-times-117332.php

 

Christgau: "outraged, disgusted, and sick at heart"

 

 rumors that Village Voice Media, which owns City Pages, will be bought by the New Times

 

City Pages

 

 

 

 

Poynter

http://poynter.org/forum/?id=32365

New Times rumors

http://www.gawker.com/news/media/village-voice/village-voice-union-set-for-apocalypse-110291.php

More gawker New Times shit

http://www.gawker.com/news/village-voice/index.php#village-voice-to-sell-soul-to-new-times-117332

 

As blogged on Culture to Go

http://blogs.citypages.com/ctg/2005/08/christgau_outra.asp

Rumors of merger

http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/circulation/village_voice_on_the_block_23918.asp

http://www.sfbg.com/39/34/news_new_times.html

New Times

http://www.gawker.com/news/village-voice/index.php#village-voice-to-sell-soul-to-new-times-117332

 

New Times profile

http://aan.org/gyrobase/Aan/ViewCompany?oid=oid%3A1958

New Times web site

http://www.newtimes.com/

http://www.newtimes.com/overview.html

Started in 1970

Village Voice history

http://www.villagevoice.com/aboutus/

 

 

1.) Clear Channel owns City Pages

Village Voice Media's business practices may be questionable (the deal with New Times that closed the Cleveland Free Times impoverished local culture even more than the one that closed the Twin Cities Reader here in 1997). But get it straight: 

 

 

http://citypages.com/databank/18/846/article3268.asp

 

Have alt-weeklies ever not been in dire financial straits?

IIRC when The Village Voice was owned by R. Murdoch (late 70s) and Leonard Stern (80s) things weren't nearly as precarious. But the Voice's independently owned competition -- Soho Weekly News -- limped along with a fraction of the ads until folding in 1982. Look at NY Press, it's always been a shell of a newspaper. And Time Out must have some major financial resources behind it.

Clearly the current Voice's efforts to expand nationally, absorb New Times etc have been a mixed success financially. I bitch and moan about the Voice but I still pick it up each week and it'll REALLY suck if the management connives a way to shit-can their unionized staff in favor of cheaper and less provacative writers and editors.

Christgau

http://blogs.citypages.com/ctg/2005/08/christgau_outra.asp

Union troubles

http://www.gawker.com/news/media/village-voice/village-voice-union-set-for-apocalypse-110291.php

Village Voice

Stern

New Times

 

http://www.gawker.com/news/village-voice/index.php#village-voice-to-sell-soul-to-new-times-117332

 

 

Copyright 2005 PR Newswire Association LLC.
All Rights Reserved.
PR Newswire US


February 7, 2005 Monday


LENGTH: 677 words

HEADLINE: Robeco USA Announces Name Change in Rebranding Effort;
Firm relocates to midtown Manhattan

DATELINE: NEW YORK Feb. 7

BODY:


NEW YORK, Feb. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Robeco USA announced today that it has changed its name to Robeco Investment Management, effective immediately. The new name is intended to more clearly represent the firm's activities and focus in the institutional investment management business in the United States. Robeco Investment Management remains a fully owned subsidiary of Robeco Group, the global fund manager based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

"Robeco Investment Management will continue its strong focus on and commitment to the institutional investment management business, maintaining the heritage of its three distinct investment platforms -- Boston Partners, Sage Capital, and Weiss, Peck & Greer," said William J. Kelly, CEO.

"Our new name will help the marketplace better understand the scope and sophistication of our competencies as we grow our business and strengthen the collaboration between our US and European entities. We can thereby make all our capabilities available to our clients wherever there is a need," said Stefan Bichsel, Chairman of Robeco Investment Management and member of the Robeco Group Management Board.

Robeco Investment Management has approximately $30 billion in assets under management for institutional investors and certain high net worth investors in the U.S.

Separately, the firm also announced that it has relocated its headquarters to 909 Third Avenue in midtown Manhattan (54th Street), from its former address at One New York Plaza.

Robeco Group began assembling its US unit in 1998, with the acquisition of New York-based Weiss, Peck & Greer, an independent firm offering fixed income, equity and alternatives products. It added New York multi-strategy manager Sage Capital in 2002. Robeco then completed the acquisition of Boston Partners Asset Management, a value equity manager headquartered in Boston, in 2003.

About Robeco Investment Management

Robeco Investment Management
is the U.S.-based institutional asset management arm of the Robeco Group. The platform consists of three separate and distinct investment capabilities and brands: Boston Partners (value equity), Sage Capital (multi-manager strategies), and Weiss, Peck & Greer (fixed income, equity and alternatives).

About Robeco

Robeco provides discretionary asset management products and services, as well as a complete range of mutual funds to a large number of institutional and retail clients worldwide. Robeco's product range encompasses fixed-income and equity investments, as well as balanced accounts, money-market funds and alternative investments.

Robeco distributes its funds for the retail market directly, and through other financial institutions. Several of its mutual funds, including the flagship Robeco N.V., are listed on the major European stock exchanges.

As well as from its head office in Rotterdam, Robeco services its clients from its European offices in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Bahrain. In the United States, Robeco has offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco (Weiss, Peck & Greer), Boston (Boston Partners), White Plains (Sage Capital) and Toledo (Harbor Capital Advisors).

Robeco is the center for asset management with full operational independence within the Rabobank Group. The combination of the highest credit ratings from the major international rating agencies and the highest Sustainability Cluster Score within the banking sector reflects the high added value Rabobank has always offered its investors, members, clients and employees.

 

http://www.robecoinvest.com/

 

 

 

Copyright 2005 eFinancialNews Ltd.  
eFinancialNews.com

January 9, 2005


LENGTH: 1082 words

HEADLINE: Moeller determined to drive through the changes at Robeco

SOURCE: eFinancialNews

BYLINE: Hugh Wheelan

BODY:
George Moeller, chief executive of Dutch asset manager Robeco, may have winced as his former employer Euronext rocketed into the news at the end of last year with a potential offer for the London Stock Exchange.After all, his departure from the pan-European exchange came after the scrapping of an agreement stipulating that he would become chief executive in September 2004, prompting his departure. However, Moeller is determined to drive through change at his new employer and generate headlines of his own.

Barely six months into the job, Moeller has integrated Robeco's US fund management arms. Alternatives and traditional manager Weiss Peck & Greer, value manager Boston Partners and multi-manager specialist Robeco Sage have been merged to form Robeco Investment Management. They previously operated independently under the label of Robeco USA.

The group is looking to expand into the UK. Moeller, who lived for 10 years in London, is keen to tap into the country's lucrative institutional market. "If there is a group of people in the UK with investment talent then we would like to hear from them.

"We're looking for sales but much more for investment capabilities. There's so much product available in the UK but we believe we can have the most success in selling our products in the developed European markets."

Moeller declines to predict a timeframe in which appointments will be made.

The flurry of activity carries over from his decision on joining the Dutch manager to separate the roles of head of equities and fixed income. This led to the resignation of chief investment officer Marnix Vreizen, who led both asset classes.

"We felt we had substantial equity and fixed-income portfolios. We also acknowledged that these were very different asset classes and that the job of chief investment officer should be separated and more focused," said Moeller.

Edith Siermann and Mark van der Kroft, former heads of fixed income and equities respectively, moved up to the chief investment officer slots.

Moeller said the rebranded Robeco Investment Management in the US will be headquartered in a new office in midtown Manhattan.

"They were separate companies and we wanted to bring them under the same umbrella."

He said Robeco had restructured the businesses, suggesting there would be no further job losses. "We got rid of the private client and clearing businesses and the job cuts have been made."

William Kelly, chief financial officer, has been promoted to chief executive of the new unit from next month. Kelly succeeds Stefan Bichsel, who becomes chairman.

Moeller is excited about the hedge fund business the group has built in the US and said the merger will position the alternatives division as a stronger entity within Robeco's E115bn ($ 152bn) asset management business.

The company manages E4bn in hedge fund assets worldwide and an additional E8bn in structured products. "We want to concentrate on the success of this and bring it together.

"In Rotterdam, we also have a good alternatives business, which has been under- emphasised in the past.

"One of the things I felt when arriving here was that the alternatives side was not sufficiently integrated with the full company power behind it.

"It is important to recognise the areas where we are strong and to position them better. In two to three years I think we could double the amount of money we have in hedge funds."

Robeco Alternative Investments, the European business, covers structured products, funds of hedge funds, single-strategy hedge funds and private equity funds of funds. Robeco has also profited from growth in hedge fund of funds business Transtrend, in which it holds a 49% interest.



Among the planned innovations in alternatives for this year is a "hat-trick fund" - a bond product incorporating fixed income, currency overlay and a long/short element, said Moeller.

"The products themselves are doing well - we just need to put a little bit of a sales turbo on them. We may be a name for traditional investments but we need to bring alternatives into the shop window," he said.

The company is selling a fund of funds in private equity where sustainability criteria underpin the companies in which it invests. "We wanted to put an interesting flavour on this, which we have and it is going well, despite being a niche business."

Moeller wants to move Robeco beyond its reputation of being a decent Dutch growth manager. He said: "What I would like to see in the Netherlands is a change of direction. The first part of this regards investment, where we are perceived as being a little biased towards a growth style.

"What we are doing at the moment is launching a global value product so that our fund management is style neutral."

He also wants to develop a less centralised approach to the business. "We have been very focused on Rotterdam in the past but I want to push the fact that we have asset management and marketing talent in Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland and that we would like to be doing more in London."

The group has interests in Japan and is looking at expansion in the Middle East. He explains this as part of his vision that Robeco should run a virtual office.

"What this means is using the location where you have the best investment services to provide to clients wherever they are. That is the key to success," he said.

The support of parent company Rabobank, which was founded as a co-operative of Dutch agricultural banks, will be vital. The group's global investment banking arm, Rabobank International, has more than 200 offices in 35 countries.

However, Rabobank suggested it could seek to co-own Robeco with another bank although Moeller believes the parent's focus is now singular.

"Rabobank is a perfect partner and a good fit because it has a very different business. It is also triple-A rated, which helps. It wants to be the largest agricultural bank in the world and there is no suggestion that it is not committed to Robeco or would want to change our identity."

Looking at European asset management peers, Moeller sees Robeco in the mould of Schroders in the UK, "They have no other business but asset management and are looking to be successful in traditional assets and alternatives."

If Moeller's strategic expansion policy continues, it may not be long until Robeco is challenging Schroders for business on the UK manager's home turf.

 

 

April 09, 2001
LENGTH: 191 words

HEADLINE: Weiss Peck Crowns New Chairman

BYLINE: Christa Fanelli

BODY:
New York-based private equity firm Weiss, Peck & Greer recently appointed Nasos Michas as president, chief executive officer and chairman of the firm's investment committee.

Michas, a former chairman of Merrill Lynch Banks, will succeed Stephen Weiss. In a statement, Pieter Korteweg, president and chief executive of Robeco, which is the parent company of Weiss Peck, said the appointment of Michas fits well with the firm's strategic priority of enhancing its global position in alternative asset management.

Michas joined Merrill Lynch & Co. in 1974 and served as chairman of Merrill Lynch Banks and a member of it private client executive committee. Michas also was involved in several different arms of the organization including Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust; Merrill Lynch Insurance Co.; Merrill Lynch Domestic Trust Cos.; Business Financial Services; Merrill Lynch Credit Corp.; and Benefits Investment Services.

Weiss Peck last January led a group of investors in the acquisition of the Village Voice and five other alternative newspapers from Stern Publishing Inc. for an undisclosed amount (Buyouts Jan. 24, p. 38).

 

Copyright 2000 The Deal L.L.C.  
Daily Deal (New York, NY)

January 5, 2000 Wednesday


SECTION: M AND A

LENGTH: 688 words

HEADLINE: Voice Group Sold, Pub Rollup to Continue

BYLINE: by Richard Morgan

HIGHLIGHT:
The price Stern Publishing reportedly got for its group of seven alternative weeklies led by The Village Voice in New York falls just shy of 1999?s mean multiples.

BODY:
The price reportedly paid to Stern Publishing for its group of seven alternative weeklies - led by The Village Voice in New York - falls just shy of 1999's mean multiples for such properties.

The deal, reported Wednesday in The New York Times, calls for a management group headed by current Stern president and Voice veteran David Schneiderman, with Weiss, Peck & Greer, llc as the lead private-equity backer, to pay between $150 million and $170 million for the chain of newspaper giveaways.

Veronis, Suhler & Associations, the New York merchant bank for the media, communications and information industries, handled the transaction for Stern but declined to comment on its specifics. Others close to the transaction, however, put the cash-flow multiple a shade under 11x trailing 12-month cash flow (or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).

According to statistics compiled by The Jordan Edmiston Group, another New York-based investment bank for new and old media, this cash-flow multiple would rank slightly under the 12.6 mean recorded for deals of a similar nature in the first half of 1999. The revenue multiple, meanwhile, appears to be spot on the 1.8x average recorded by JEGI for that same period.

The seven Stern properties will be buttressed by The Nashville Scene, which Weiss, Peck & Greer recently acquired, to form an operating entity called Village Voice Media. This new entity has projected annualized revenues of $90 million on a combined circulation of 900,000.

VV Media has also committed itself to completing the successful rollup strategy the weeklies' former owner Leonard Stern leaves half-finished. Schneiderman, who becomes CEO of the new company, even went on record with plans to accelerate the strategy's timetable.

'Our larger goals are to increase the pace of acquisition of alternative newspapers around the country, utilize the power of these brands in their local markets, to grow a substantial Internet presence and exploit opportunities in the radio market through cross-ownership and cross-promotion,' Schneiderman said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Veronis' Kevin Lavalla, who helped broker the deal, said the sale took the form of an auction in two parts. Participants numbering in the 'double digits' and representing strategic and financial players alike submitted bids in the initial round, he said.

A cut-off point then left finalists numbering in the 'single digits,' he said, which then met with Stern management. The result was what Lavalla called a 'focused range' of final bids, the winner of which ended-'right on schedule'-a process that began with Stern's announcing his intent to sell last September.

In an e-mail to Voice staff Wednesday, Stern, whose decision to sell stemmed from his progeny's reluctance to take over the publishing fiefdom, rambled in a style not altogether different from that in the properties he sold. 'Unfortunately, the reality of life dictates different plans for each passing decade and, as we all eventually come to realize, time does not stand still for anyone,' he said. 'Faced with this reality as well as other personal considerations, I reluctantly concluded that the future of my publishing interest should be entrusted to new owners.'

Weiss, Peck & Greer, with offices in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, manages $18 billion in assets. Its private equity group, which specializes in middle-market companies, has invested in 38 companies over the past 19 years. Its other media investments include Lionheart Newspapers, a group of 70 community newspapers, and Regent Communications, a radio broadcaster with 29 stations in eight markets. The investment firm is part of European-based Robeco Group, which boasts assets in excess of $100 billion.

In the Stern deal, other partners include: Trimaran Fund II, llc, a private equity fund linked with CIBC; Arthur Howe, the owner of alternative paper Philadelphia City Paper, serving as president of VV Media; and Albie Del Favero, publisher of the Nashville Scene, serving as executive vice president.

www.TheDeal.com

 

Copyright 2002 The Deal L.L.C.  
Daily Deal (New York, NY)

October 3, 2002 Thursday


SECTION: M AND A

LENGTH: 780 words

HEADLINE: Alternative papers call truce

BYLINE: by Peter Lauria

HIGHLIGHT:
A decision by Village Voice Media and New Times to close weekly titles that competed with each other could portend a larger combination between the two publishers.

BODY:
The announcement Wednesday, Oct. 2, that alternative publishers Village Voice Media Inc. and New Times Inc. will each close weekly titles competing in the same markets could set the stage for a larger combination between the two.

Voice Media CEO David Schneiderman said his company will shutter its Cleveland Free Times alternative weekly in return for New Times agreeing to close its similarly focused New Times L.A. Voice Media will also pay New Times an undisclosed cash sum to account for the disparity in market size between Los Angeles and Cleveland, Schneiderman said.

The arrangement eliminates competition between the two publishers for local advertising dollars, leaving each city with only one alternative outlet for news. Voice Media will continue to publish its LA Weekly, while New Times' Cleveland Scene remains in operation.

Schneiderman explained that neither company was doing particularly well in the Cleveland market, with the intense competition producing more of a strain than a gain for both. As a source close to one of the companies said, "Both companies were losing a lot of money from their competition in the Cleveland market."

The Voice Media chief denied the discussions went beyond Wednesday's deal to include a possible merger or portfolio reshuffling between the publishers. But, when asked if he was open to that, Schneiderman demurred, saying "I couldn't answer that question myself." Representatives for New Times did not return repeated calls for comment.

Given that both companies have committed themselves to a strategy of growth-through-acquisitions, it appears more than coincidental that Cleveland and Los Angeles are the only two markets in which Voice Media and New Times overlap.

In addition to Los Angeles, Voice Media has its headquarters and publishes its flagship Village Voice in New York, the Seattle Weekly, City Pages in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the OC Weekly in California's Orange County. New Times, the larger of the two companies, holds titles in Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, San Francisco (along with a sister publication in Berkeley), St. Louis, Kansas City. Mo., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Founded by Arizona State University students as a reaction to the Kent State University shootings in 1970, New Times is based in Phoenix, where it publishes its flagship Phoenix New Times. Both companies acquired the majority of these titles during a mid-to-late 1990s buying spree.

Moreover, New Times was considered to be the strongest candidate to buy Voice Media from Stern Publishing two years ago. But, according to a source involved in that auction, New Times balked at the asking price.

Voice Media eventually sold for a reported $150 million to a management group headed by Schneiderman, along with financial backing from Goldman Sachs & Co. and private equity houses Weiss, Peck & Greer LLC and the Trimaran Fund II LLC, a unit of CIBC World Markets. New Times in that same year received an undisclosed equity infusion from Alta Communications to aid its roll-up plans.

While Schneiderman evaded the question of a possible hook-up with New Times - noting his backers would decide - sources at two of the private equity houses, while not naming either company, said the alternative weekly arena offers "interesting opportunities to expand" and that they will "continue to pursue growth plans with a variety of other companies."

Those same sources claim to have no near-term designs on cashing out of their investments. But, as Reed Phillips, managing partner with media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips LLC, points out, "Private equity backers have to exit at some point."

Both companies got backing two years ago, which lags the traditional three- to five-year exit strategy of a typical buyout house. But the current environment for media companies, particularly print media companies, has been unkind. " Alternative media companies have lost significant advertising dollars from several key categories," an industry source said.

As weekly titles driven largely by local advertising, the companies would have to figure out what they could do together that they can't do independently. "There doesn't appear to be dramatic merger benefits here," the industry source said. "Titles aren't regionally clustered, and, for instance, CBGB's or another club in New York wouldn't advertise in an L.A. paper."

But that view is short-sighted, according to newspaper guru John Morton. "Weeklies don't have as much opportunity to save on newsprint as dailies," he said, before adding that combining the two companies could create one with enough girth to attract national advertising.

 

STRIKING VOICE?

Union activists at the Village Voice say editorial workers might be on the brink of the first strike in the 50-year his tory of the left- leaning weekly.

The current three-year contract expires at midnight June 30 and workers are said to be infuriated by the owner's initial offer.

"They [management] came to the table with a bunch of givebacks," fumed one insider.

He said the company was pushing to have workers shoulder medical costs for the first time in its history while offering workers a Hobson's choice when it comes to pay increases.

The proposed deal would offer no wage increases for the first two years and a 3 percent increase down the road.

Alternatively, the company said it could offer pay increases, at the expense of slashing the corporate contribution to the 401(k) plan, currently at 3 percent.

On Monday, about 75 workers chanted, "A fair press needs fair ownership," with white shirts bearing the slogan, "Is this anyway to celebrate our 50th birthday?"

Village Voice Media, the parent company which owns alternative weeklies nationwide, was taken over by an investment team headed by Weiss, Peck & Greer in 2000.

CEO David Schneiderman, who had served as president and publisher when pet food king Leonard Stern owned the weekly, stayed on board under the new ownership.

Mader Rosenstein, at Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers, which is representing about 150 workers in the bargaining unit, said an impasse has yet to be declared.

"We're negotiating very hard," she said. "We're at the table. We'll see how it turns out."

Said a Voice spokeswoman, "The Village Voice management team is working with our union to resolve [the] issues and negotiate a mutually agreeable contract. We are confident that an amicable settlement can be reached."

 

The New York Times


July 2, 2005 Saturday
Late Edition - Final


SECTION: Section B; Column 5; Metropolitan Desk; Pg. 4

LENGTH: 260 words

HEADLINE: Village Voice Reaches Agreement With Union, Averting a Strike

BYLINE: By ABEER ALLAM

BODY:


After intense negotiations that lasted until early yesterday, the Village Voice's management and the paper's writers, clerical staff and advertising and marketing representatives reached an agreement, averting a strike.

The workers had threatened to strike when their contract expired yesterday if management cut back their benefits, as it had proposed.

The agreement calls for a $20-a-week wage increase in each of three years, and eliminates a proposal to have employees pay for health insurance. Salaries for entry-level newsroom jobs are under $30,000.

''We think it is a good agreement,'' said Maida Rosenstein of Local 2110 of the United Auto Workers, which represents 150 employees at the paper. ''We are very glad we were able to avoid a strike.'' The union's members voted 81 to 5 to accept the new three-year contract yesterday.

Until two days ago, the negotiations, which started on June 14, were deadlocked. Management had offered a $15 weekly pay increase but had asked employees to pay for their health insurance, switch to a more limited health plan, and agree to a slight change in how contributions are made to 401(k) retirement accounts, according to the union.

David Schneiderman, the chairman and chief executive of Village Voice Media, the newspaper's parent company, and Judy Mizner, the publisher, did not return phone calls.

''We did not get everything we wanted,'' said Tom Robbins, a writer on the union negotiating team. ''In the end we did a whole lot better than the management had anticipated. We ended up ahead of the game.''

 

LA Weekly (California)


April 4, 2003, Friday


SECTION: News; Pg. 20

LENGTH: 568 words

HEADLINE: START THE PRESSES

BYLINE: HOWARD BLUME

BODY:
With a little help from the government, a newspaper that was shut down in a notorious deal has returned from the dead. The Cleveland Free Times, a feisty but financially challenged alternative weekly, will resume publication in May.

The paper had been killed off six months ago, when the nation's two largest chains of alternative newspapers agreed to end their head-to-head competition. The New Times chain closed its paper in Los Angeles, and Village Voice Media (which owns the L.A. Weekly) shuttered Free Times.

The arrangement immediately attracted state and federal regulators, because antitrust laws forbid companies from colluding to divide markets and eliminate competition. Rather than contest a civil lawsuit, the two chains opted to settle in January, paying nearly a million dollars in fines. The feds also required both chains to make the assets of the closed papers available for sale. These assets, including the names of the papers, had questionable value, but in Cleveland the formula has apparently fueled genuine competition.

The new Free Times will offer readers a familiar, popular label and even a familiar product, given that the former publisher, the former editor in chief and many former writers will return as staff. The paper "will pick up where we left off before we were closed," said publisher Matt Fabyan in a release. His ownership group includes Arthur Howe, a Pulitzer Prize--winning reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer who once was president of Village Voice Media.

Of course, there's one ingredient that Fabyan might have to change. On the last round, Free Times was losingk money, according to Village Voice Media CEO David Schneiderman. So was the competing Cleveland Scene (owned by New Times) -- which is why the two chains consummated their deal in the first place. Cleveland "was really a one-paper market in terms of profitability," said Schneiderman in a January interview. "One of us had to go."

Schneiderman as well as New Times execs declined comment this week. But Free Times editor in chief David Eden flatly denies that Free Times was losing money when it was "illegally closed," as he put it. As for New Times, "their worst nightmare scenario was that Matt Fabyan would resurrect Free Times and the deal would be worthless," said Eden. "We were the number-one paper and we expect to be the number-one paper again very soon."

The antitrust settlement explicitly gives advertisers a window to dissolve New Times/Cleveland Scene advertising contracts. "We want all former Free Times advertisers, and all Scene advertisers, to now know that they are free and clear to advertise again in the Free Times," said publisher Fabyan.

Making a go of it would defy conventional wisdom, but for the moment at least, fans of the alternative press can cheer for a David in its tilt against the Goliath of the two dominant chains. "I am hoping the new Cleveland Free Times will show the way and become a model for the critical new front in the alternative press: the rise of the entrepreneurial paper, willing and able to fight the competitive battle of the independent versus the chain," said Bruce B. Brugmann, editor and publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, in a widely distributed e-mail. Brugmann's paper is not part of a chain. "I raise my martini glass . . . to the spirit and the good health of the new Cleveland Free Times."

LOAD-DATE: April 25, 2003

 


 



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