Executives: Creative Loafing still alive after sale

08/27/09 Mitch E. Perry
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On Tuesday, a New York-based hedge fund took control of the Tampa Bay area alternative weekly newspaper Creative Loafing by winning a bankruptcy court auction against the weekly chain's founding family.

Atalaya Capital Management won the auction with a $5 million bid and pledged to keep the Tampa and Sarasota papers, as well as the company's four other alt-weeklies, up and running.

David Warner is the editor of Creative Loafing. He says readers of the paper in the Tampa Bay area don’t have to worry about the publication going anywhere soon.

Atalaya’s successful bid to buy the 6 papers means the owner of the Creative Loafing chain, Ben Eason, is no longer associated with the organization. The Eason family founded the company in 1972.

In 2007, Eason borrowed $40 million dollars to buy two big alternative weeklies, the Chicago Reader and the Washington City Paper, to join with his 4 original papers. Eason has been quoted as saying that those purchases did not lead to the paper having to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. He instead blames the poor economy, which has seen print advertising dry up, as well as the continued popularity of Craigslist for sucking up some traditional advertising.

The latest name journalist to be leaving Creative Loafing is Political Editor Wayne Garcia, who announced on Tuesday that he is leaving the paper to teach journalism at the University of Florida. His voluntary departure follows the termination of noted staffers such as music writers Eric Snider and Wade Tantangelo, and reporter Alex Pickett in the last year. Garcia says he hopes to continue to contribute to the paper occasionally.

But despite that, editor David Warner says that he has been told by the management of Atalaya Capital that they are serious about maintaining, if not improving, the journalism in Creative Loafing.

In the past year, more resources have seemingly been exhausted on beefing up Creative Loafing’s web site, including the addition of many local citizens of various backgrounds blogging there.

In reporting on the sale earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune speculated that it remains unclear how Atalaya thinks it can turn a bankrupt chain of weeklies into a profitable and growing enterprise.

The Tribune reported that even the strongest newspaper companies are having trouble envisioning how they will survive in a future increasingly defined by digital publishing.

Full Disclosure: This reporter contributes a weekly blog column on Creative Loafing’s website.

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