It took about six months between initial conversations about buying The Times-Picayune and getting the deal done to buy the New Orleans newspaper, Advocate owner John Georges told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge Wednesday.
“It was the hardest, most challenging deal I have ever done,” said Georges, who owns the businesses with his wife Dathel.
Actually striking a deal to buy the newspaper and negotiating a price happened fairly quickly. Georges said he and Dan Shea, the former publisher of The Advocate and now chairman of Georges Media, first met with Advance Local Media in December to discuss a deal. Georges said he wanted to talk to Advance because the challenging economics of the media business meant there needed to be only one dominant media outlet in the state.
The original plan was to discuss with Advance a merger of the two New Orleans newspapers, a deal that would not include the nola.com website. “I thought they were getting rid of print anyway,” Georges said.
But in January, Advance came back and said it was willing to sell The Times-Picayune and its nola.com website.
“It was a shock,” Georges said. “It was like you chase the car and then you caught it. But in this case, we didn’t catch a car. It was a bus.”
It took about a month to negotiate a price for The Times-Picayune and nola.com. Later came a 60-day process of combining operations, including serving Times-Picayune subscribers and advertisers, and also hiring some Times-Picayune employees.
“I wanted every employee to feel that even though they may or may not come with us that they were treated fairly,” he said. “The leadership of that newspaper acted better than any group of people I ever worked with.”
The transition in ownership has worked out smoothly in New Orleans, Georges said. The websites have merged seamlessly and greatly expanded their impact online; advertisers have been happy; and The Times-Picayune subscribers have been folded into a media company that spans New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Acadiana with daily print editions for each market.
“The paper looks great in New Orleans,” he said. That will help in Baton Rouge because "we needed that growth.”
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Through his company, HPHI, Tyler LaFleur offers health coaching and executive performance coaching.