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Investors weigh in on Tampa Bay Times’ printing plant sale

Margie Manning

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Tampa Bay Times production facility (Google maps)

The investor group that holds a mortgage on the Tampa Bay Times production facility is waiting to see how the planned sale of the plant will impact its loan to the newspaper.

It’s unclear if the proceeds from a sale would be used to pay off the $15.3 million the Times owes to FBN Partners, a group of prominent business leaders in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

“I don’t know if a decision about that has been made,” said Chris Moench, CEO of Directed Capital, a St. Petersburg financial firm that represents the investor group. “As a first lien holder, FBN has priority for repayment from the proceeds. Anything other than repayment happening would be at the discretion of the members of FBN.“

Times Publishing Co. announced Wednesday it would shut down and sell its printing facility and outsource printing of the newspaper to a Gannett Co. plant in Lakeland.

The company plans to use the proceeds to pay down debt and make a contribution to its pension plan, according to Paul Tash, Times chairman and CEO.

FBN loaned $12 million to Times Publishing in 2017 and another $3 million in 2019, with the production facilities serving as collateral for the loans. At the time the loans were made, the motivation was to ensure the newspaper could stay independent and remain locally owned, Moench said. That motivation has not changed, he said.

“I think the Times has been trying to make a business decision on how to operate their business … and they came to the conclusion this was their best option,” Moench said.  “I think they’re now figuring out how to best maximize the value of the asset for the benefit of the Times and its stakeholders.”

Moench declined to comment on the potential highest and best use for the land, saying the Times was working through that process.

“The Times is obviously interested in maximizing the financial return that can be generated from the sale of that property,” Moench said. “There’s probably a few directions that a prospective buyer could go with that property. It’s a good size piece of property and again I don’t want to speculate on what the uses might look like, but I think it’s safe to say it’s not going to be a successor printing business of that magnitude.”

FBN holds a mortgage on several parcels of land owned by Times Publishing:

• Light manufacturing buildings at 1301 34th St. N., with 255,942 total square feet and an estimated market value of $5 million

• Light manufacturing facilities at 3131, 3135 and 3151 13th Ave. N., with 53,267 square feet and an estimated market value of $2.465 million

• A 20,535 square foot distribution warehouse at 3200 17th Ave. N. with an estimated market value of $1.52 million

 

In 2015, the Times sold several acres of vacant land just west of the printing press abutting 34th Street North for $3.8 million. The property has since been developed as a Thorntons convenience store and gas station, a small strip shopping center, a Culver’s Restaurant and an Aldi grocery store.  Those four parcels resold separately between 2017 and 2019 for a total of $12.2 million.

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