Friday, September 01, 2006

Tribune takes 100% stake in amNew York

Tribune Co., majority owner of the free daily amNew York, has bought the shares of a minority investor group led by amNew York co-founder and publisher Russel Pergament, according to a press release from Tribune. Under an agreement signed in 2003 when the paper started, Tribune had rights to purchase the interest after three years.

Tribune also announced that the paper's general manager, Christopher Barnes, 35, has been named as publisher and that Pergament will become a consultant. Pergament had made a commitment to the paper for three years, and he left after that time was up, amNew York said.

COMMENTARY: What Tribune didn't say was whether the 320,000-circulation paper was profitable, which would lead one to conclude that it is not. If it were, that would be the story. Tribune said in 2003 that it expected amNew York to turn a profit by 2006, according to a Reuters report.

The U.S. has two types of free dailies -- community free dailies, which are generally profitable, and metro free dailies (Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington), none of which has reported making a profit.

Other questions raised by all of this include: Was Pergament pushed or did he jump? Did Tribune hold him responsible for the paper not being in the black by 2006? Or was Tribune cutting costs by booting Pergament in order to bring amNew York into the black?

New York is a highly competitive media market, so we imagine these questions will be asked and answered by somebody at a competing publication. Stay tuned.