‘Times’ to sell loads of small regional newspapers to Florida company

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The Sarasota Herald-Tribune ()
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The New York Times Company has confirmed that is in "advanced negotiations" to sell its 16 regional news titles to the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Halifax Media Holdings.

News of the sale was first reported earlier today by Jim Romenesko, one of whose readers forwarded him a screen-grab of a page on Halifax Media's website that listed all of the titles as its own. (The page has since been taken down.)

The deal inches toward a close as Times Company leadership appears to be rushing in a number of changes before year's end, including buyouts and the retirements of two top executives. According to the Times' own report, the Regional Newspaper Group accounted for 11 percent of the Times’s $2.4 billion in revenue in 2010, and it has seen advertising fall off in recent years.

The segment spans a handful of local markets in Florida, California, Alabama, Louisiana and the Carolinas, including titles such as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Santa Rosa-based Press Democrat. It does not include The Boston Globe, which the company also owns but runs separately as part of the New England Newspaper Group. (Find a complete list here.)

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At different times the Times has considered selling the Globe, which led some to speculate the Times might not be religious about maintaining its newspaper holdings in general. But at a media conference several weeks ago, Times Company chief executive Janet Robinson didn't speak of the regional papers as a commodity that was necessarily on the block.

Asked whether the Times Co. would consider implementing a paid digital model at any of the regional titles as it has with its flagship brand, Robinson said she "would not rule it out."

Then again, nor did she let on that she was about to announce her own big news: Her retirement from the paper at the end of the year.

Times Company spokesman Robert Christie wouldn't comment beyond pointing to a press release issued by the company this afternoon.