Stories ranging from a lull in industrial construction to the rise of medical marijuana captured business headlines during 2019. Here's a roundup of those and other major business stories published in The Advocate during the year:

Looking to ride another wave

Having ridden a wave of industrial projects, Louisiana has been shedding construction industry jobs every month compared to the year prior for the past 12 months, weighing down a still slowly expanding overall job market. That could change with another wave of industrial projects on the horizon.

In November 2018, Louisiana’s construction sector had 150,000 jobs, which dropped to 140,300 this November. That’s a 6.5% drop compared with 2018 and 9,700 fewer construction jobs across the state.

Industry leaders note that the lull in the construction sector is because many projects have already been completed, while other announced projects haven't yet begun construction to take advantage of plentiful, low-priced natural gas as a fuel and raw material for making chemicals and as an export.

Nearly $188 billion in industrial construction projects have been announced in Louisiana since 2012, based on figures tracked by economist and consultant Loren Scott. Work has not yet started on $114.9 billion in projects. In the Baton Rouge since 2012, petrochemical companies have announced $16.8 billion of industrial expansion projects, but $11.5 billion of those projects are either under construction or have been completed.

A total of $2.4 billion in projects are expected to start construction. Among those are a third Methanex plant in Geismar, an expansion of oxygen supplier Air Liquide, ExxonMobil's polyolefin plant and an expansion of the Formosa Plastics PVC production plant. Shell Chemicals is expected to make an investment decision for a $1.2 billion mono-ethylene glycol unit next year. ExxonMobil also is considering two investments in West Baton Rouge Parish at its lubricants plant: one which could cost $22.6 million while the other would cost about $12.2 million.

An Iberville Parish polymer plant owned by French chemical maker SNF Floerger, known as SNF Holding Co., expects to spend $375 million for its own expansion.

The job market in the Baton Rouge are is expected to grow slightly over the next two years and mostly track the state average as the lull in industrial activity ends and more projects in the petrochemical industry start construction again.

The Baton Rouge metro area is expected to add 5,700 jobs in 2020 and 6,000 jobs in 2021, a 1.4% growth rate both years, according to projections from the annual economic outlook report compiled by Scott and Gregory Upton Jr., assistant professor and researcher at the LSU Center for Energy Studies.

Overall, Louisiana is expected to add 24,700 jobs, or 1.2%, in 2020 and another 28,800 jobs, or 1.4%, in 2021. Eight of the state's nine metro areas show growth, with Alexandria projected to be flat. 

LNG fueling growth; but how long?

The long-term outlook for Louisiana’s energy industry is still solid but there are some uncertainties, especially in the global market that trickles down to the state level.

For example, Houston-based Cameron LNG's export facility in southwest Louisiana has started generating liquefied natural gas for its second unit. It has plans for three natural gas liquefaction units at the Hackberry site in Cameron Parish. Once completed, Cameron LNG would be able to export up to 12 million tons of LNG each year, or 1.7 billion cubic feet each day. Cameron LNG is the fourth-largest LNG export facility in the country.

The Sabine Pass facility, operated by Cheniere Energy Inc., is the largest LNG exporter, with about 3 billion cubic feet per day exported as of June. That same month, Cheniere made a final investment decision to move forward with its sixth unit, which will add more capacity and is expected to begin commercial operations in 2023.

Net exports of U.S. natural gas doubled for the second year in a row, according to data released in October by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

That provides hope for several other LNG companies looking to build in Louisiana that are in various steps of the process.

LSU researchers predicted that of the $195 billion in energy manufacturing and export capital investments announced along the Gulf Coast to occur between 2019 through 2029, only about $131 billion may come to fruition. More near-term capital investment of $182 billion between 2019 and 2023 was adjusted down to $115 billion.

Essentially, about one-third of projects could be canceled, researchers estimated.

Tellurian's Driftwood LNG is building a $30 billion LNG facility and expects to start shipping by 2023. Commonwealth LNG is proposing building six units at a cost of $4 billion. Venture Global LNG plans to build three export facilities, Calcasieu Pass, Plaquemines LNG and Delta LNG, for a total in $15 billion investment by 2024. 

Australian company Magnolia LNG is proposing a $4.4 billion export facility. Lake Charles LNG, a joint venture between Shell and Energy Transfer Partners, signed an agreement to develop an export facility but a final investment decision has not been made.

Two proposed LNG projects have not yet filed formal applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since being announced several years ago. In 2014, Monkey Island LNG proposed a $6.5 billion LNG export facility. In 2015, Louisiana-based G2 LNG LLC proposed an $11 billion LNG facility in Cameron Parish.

Businesses react to St. George vote

The decision by voters in south Baton Rouge to establish the new city of St. George caused some local businesses to seek annexation in Baton Rouge.

Some business executives said they were concerned about a potentially higher tax bill to cover the cost of a new school district and to maintain drainage and roads. Six office buildings in the United Plaza complex off Essen Lane filed requests to be annexed into Baton Rouge. Some of the companies seeking to remain in Baton Rouge include major businesses such as Turner Industries and Stirling Properties.

In a separate move, Lipsey’s, a hunting and fishing distributor with offices on Exchequer Drive, applied to be annexed by Baton Rouge. The move didn’t come as a surprise; Richard Lipsey was a vocal opponent of St. George and contributed to a political action committee formed to fight the measure.

Attorney Charles Landry helped to organize the annexations out of St. George. In 2014 Landry was involved in efforts to annex several major commercial centers out of the then-proposed St. George area into Baton Rouge. Those properties included much of the Mall of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Siegen Lane Marketplace, Baton Rouge General Medical Center's Bluebonnet campus, the Costco store near Interstate 12 and Airline Highway and L'Auberge Baton Rouge.

But Drew Murrell, an attorney and spokesman for St. George organizers, said businesses and residents who request to be annexed into Baton Rouge are going to be disappointed because they will pay higher property taxes than they would in St. George, Murrell said.

"We're building a city from the ground up," he said. "Baton Rouge faces the same problems over and over again."

Medical marijuana hits La. market

After years of delays and legislative changes, medical marijuana became available in Louisiana in early August.

The nine state-licensed pharmacies started dispensing tinctures that used marijuana grown by GB Sciences, hired by LSU AgCenter to handle its program.

Only patients suffering from a limited range of illnesses, including cancer and intractable pain, are eligible to get medical marijuana.

GB Sciences officials said about 5,000 people received the tinctures in the first two weeks it was available.

Toward the end of the year, GB Sciences of Louisiana announced it was selling the remaining half of its business to Wellcana Plus LLC for $16 million. Lafayette-based Wellcana already owned the other half. The deal closed in mid-November.

Southern University’s efforts to launch its medical marijuana program took a major step in July, when Ilera Healthcare, the Pennsylvania-based company it hired to run the operation, planted seeds for its first crop.

The Southern program faced repeated delays due to a power struggle over control of Advanced Biomedics, the Carencro company that was initially selected to serve as the university’s exclusive partner. The primary owner of Advanced Biomedocs sold his majority stake to Ilera.

Tariffs alter Louisiana trade

Louisiana’s economy felt some brunt of the U.S.-China tariff war in the past year, mainly altering export-import markets.

While the overall value of exports from Louisiana had increased between 2017 and 2018 from $56.8 billion to $67 billion, exports to China dropped by 61% during the same time frame. China, which had been a major market for Louisiana soybeans, oil, gas and chemical products, fell to being the state’s sixth-biggest trading partner.

But other markets picked up the slack. Expanded export markets for Louisiana for 2018 included Mexico, up 27%; South Korea, doubled; Brazil, up 34%, with similar gains to Canada and the Netherlands.

During the same period, Louisiana imported more from countries around the world for a total of $40 billion in 2018. The largest was Venezuela, $5.3 billion, a 17.4% increase compared to 2017. Iraq, Canada and Russia were also top sources of imports to Louisiana. The Bayou state only imported $1.3 billion from China, which was down less than 1% compared to 2017.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas predicted that Louisiana could lose 7% of its gross state product if the U.S.-China trade war were to escalate further.

Some companies active in Louisiana attempted to ask for exclusions to the tariffs. In Baton Rouge, a music hardware and software business that sells audio mixers and a barbecue grill maker sought tariff exemptions citing hardships. Both cited difficulty in sourcing products from outside China and pressure to increase prices. A Gonzales-based baby bib maker raised prices.

Multinational petrochemical manufacturers, some with operations in Louisiana, want to import raw chemicals specific to China that they use for their production. One chemical maker said tariffs have doubled the construction costs for a proposed Louisiana plant that may not get built.

Across the state, farmers have collected more than $180 million from a federal government aimed at making up for a steep slump in soybean sales after China, the biggest buyer of American soy, raised retaliatory tariffs for several U.S. agriculture products. But the program isn’t enough to cover farmers’ costs, some say. Soybeans are a major agricultural product in Louisiana with a farm value of $800 million, second only to sugar cane.

Triple whammy of layoffs

In January, Georgia-Pacific decided it would shut down a major division of its paper mill in Port Hudson, eliminating 650 jobs there.

It was one of three companies that decided to shut down plants around Zachary. Those included German chemical maker BASF, laying off 54 workers. The firm said it expected to place employees at its facilities in Geismar. Thompson Pipe Group laid off 120 people at its Zachary manufacturing facility, consolidating those operations into its Alvarado, Texas, facility.

About 300 people continue working at the Georgia-Pacific mill producing toilet tissue and paper towels.

The division that closed included the office paper making machinery line, pulp mill and woodyard. The company had seen the market for those products drop up to 5% each year for the past decade. About 55 of those workers found jobs inside the company at other Georgia-Pacific locations or companies affiliated with its owners, Koch Industries.

Several Georgia-Pacific employees in Louisiana wound up being laid off twice after the company decided to close an Arkansas facility that some of those workers had transferred to. Five workers had relocated to Crossett, Arkansas. Two workers from the Port Hudson mill now in Arkansas were not impacted by the second closure, while two others were laid off and one worker relocated yet again to another Georgia-Pacific facility.

Even more Louisiana workers commuted across the state line and were among the 530 people laid off in Arkansas, the company confirmed. 

The partial shutdown and layoffs at the Georgia-Pacific plant inside of the Zachary Community School District was projected to cause an annual deficit of just under $1 million starting in 2021 that must be covered by the school’s surplus funds until 2028. Georgia-Pacific accounts for more than 40% of the total property taxes collected by the school district.

Hubie Owen, a School Board member and local housing developer who is a lifelong resident of Zachary, said recently that while the economic impact would hit the school’s bottom line there hasn’t been much downturn in the local economy yet.

The school district did not increase the property tax millage this year and expects to continue to lower property taxes in the coming years. The expected impact to the school’s finances won’t happen until next year, he said. He also said the real estate market has not cooled off in the area, as many workers commute to Baton Rouge.

“Most of the people who lived in Zachary (and lost jobs at the mill) were able to get jobs,” he said. “A lot of people out of Mississippi drove in every day.”

Not so happy birthday for casinos

The Belle of Baton Rouge and Hollywood Casino turned 25 in 2019, but the silver anniversary of legalized riverboat gambling came while the local properties have seen a sustained slump in business.

The Baton Rouge market peaked at $308.8 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, and has slumped over the past two years. The losing streak for the overall market finally snapped in November, but the Belle remained under year-ago winnings.

Revenue had fallen by nearly one-fourth to $235.6 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, collectively for the Belle, Hollywood Casino and L'Auberge Baton Rouge, which started operations in 2012, figures from the Louisiana Gaming Control Board show. Tracking that drop in revenue and admissions are employment and payroll.

Since fiscal 2017, revenue has dropped at the Belle by 48% to $32.6 million, by 21.5% at Hollywood to $55.1 million and by 15.8% at L'Auberge to $148 million.

The 2019 revenue drop was 16% from $280.1 million for fiscal 2018 for the three casinos. In contrast, Louisiana's 15 riverboats brought in $1.86 billion in 2019, a 3.3% decrease from the previous year.

Observers say the causes are a lack of investment from operators into their properties and more recently the city's smoking ban and more intense competition from Mississippi gambling properties, where casino taxes are lower and the outlook is now boosted by the Magnolia State's move to legalize sports betting. Other types of entertainment venues also have emerged in Baton Rouge.

While L'Auberge is a modern, spacious casino barge, as nice as any property on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Belle and Hollywood are on aging riverboats. For the Belle, it's a long walk to get to the casino floor from a casino parking garage or the hotel.

The lack of new amenities, such as restaurants, has caused legalized gambling to become another in the mix of things to do in Baton Rouge.

Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, noted the Baton Rouge casinos need to offer something more than slot machines to get gamblers to return. He notes that Las Vegas casino resorts now make more of their revenue from nongaming features, such as restaurants, golf courses, spas, entertainment and retail, than they do from gambling.

"I hope the legacy boats see the opportunity to move onto land," Jones said — an alternative the state Legislature approved in 2018.

Cortana corridors go empty

Cortana Mall basically shut down in 2019 after more than 40 years in business.

In August, Moonbeam Leasing & Management, which manages Cortana, told the handful of remaining tenants they needed to leave by September. Over the past few years, most of the mall’s tenants had moved out, including anchor tenants Macy’s, Sears, J.C. Penney and Virginia College. The shopping center banned walkers, closed all but one entrance and put up barricades to restrict people to one wing of the property.

Cortana had been open since August 1976 and was the place to shop in Baton Rouge for years until the Mall of Louisiana, which opened in 1997, eventually wrested away the title.

With Cortana just down to a Dillard’s clearance center and a U.S. Post Office branch, speculation began to swirl around what would become of the space at Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard. There was speculation that Moonbeam's efforts to get tenants out of the mall were signs the property was closing or a sale was pending. Moonbeam has not responded to emails or phone calls from The Advocate.

In November, it was revealed that a contract had been signed to sell the former Virginia College/Service Merchandise space. A similar deal was pending for the Macy’s space and the thinking is both properties have the same buyer.

Any effort to redevelop the mall will need cooperation between Moonbeam, which owns the internal parts of the mall and the long shuttered Mervyn’s space, and the owners of the Sears and J.C. Penney spaces.

Let me entertain you

The biggest retail news was the opening of three splashy new entertainment facilities: Topgolf in Siegen Marketplace, Red Stick Social on Government Street and Main Event at the Mall of Louisiana.

Topgolf allows players to hit specially equipped golf balls that use microchips to track accuracy and distance and score each drive. The Baton Rouge location is the only one between Houston and Birmingham, Alabama. Red Stick Social is a combination restaurant, bar, live music venue and bowling alley that serves as the centerpiece for the Electric Depot mixed-use development emerging for a former Entergy site. Main Event blends together a bowling alley, scores of the latest video games, a laser tag arena and a full bar and restaurant.

Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, said all of the facilities add to the family entertainment available in Baton Rouge, and are appealing destinations for the youth baseball and soccer teams participating in regional and national tournaments across the city.

"This is an additional attraction we have to offer," he said. "This is something that people can't do online.”

MidSouth, IberiaBank purchased

Two south Louisiana banks with a significant presence in Baton Rouge were purchased in 2019.

Lafayette-based MidSouth Bank was acquired by Hancock Whitney Corp. in a $214 million deal completed in September.

MidSouth Bank, which had assets of $1.7 billion at the end of March, was founded during the gloomiest days of the mid-'80s oilfield bust. During the recession of the late 2000s, the bank got national attention for billboards it took out between Lafayette and Houston, letting small businesses know it had $200 million to lend.

But the bank was hit hard by the collapse in oil prices after 2014, with a portfolio that had a high exposure to oil companies — more than 20% of the total. Two years ago, MidSouth's board fired its founder and tried to shore up its finances with a $55 million stock offering, the closure of 17 branches and a deep cut in shareholders' dividends.

Hancock Whitney President John Hairston said buying MidSouth after it had gone through the worst of its oil exposure represented a "low-risk transaction" that will bring it new markets in Beaumont, Texas, and the greater Dallas area, as well as north Louisiana.

In November, Lafayette-based IberiaBank announced it would be purchased by First Horizon, a Memphis, Tennessee-based bank, in a $3.9 billion deal. The combined company, being described as a "merger of equals" by the banks, will adopt First Horizon's name and be headquartered in Memphis. There will be regional offices in Lafayette and New Orleans.

"I think this is a formidable southern franchise. If you look at the math behind this transaction, it creates one of the top three banks in the south, one of the top 25 in the nation," said Daryl G. Byrd, the longtime head of IberiaBank.

The deal, set to close in the second quarter of 2020, is expected to lead to few layoffs at the branch level. Most of First Horizon’s branch presence is in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, while IberiaBank is primarily based along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida, and in Arkansas.

Plank Road plans revealed

A plan to redevelop Plank Road — compiled after nearly a year of community meetings — was revealed in November.

The plan aims to revitalize a 4.3-mile section of Plank Road, stretching from 22nd Street to Harding Boulevard/Hooper Road. It includes several projects: a mixed-use development that would include a grocery store, pharmacy and residential units; a civic space for community meetings and events; a pocket park; a building that will house Build Baton Rouge and a YWCA child care center; and 16 mixed-income housing units.

"This is a broad, comprehensive effort aimed at creating an equitable development plan for the city's most blighted and disinvested corridor," said Chris Tyson, the head of Build Baton Rouge, the city-parish’s redevelopment agency.

A core component of the plan is a proposed a rapid transit bus, which would run from Plank and Airline Highway to LSU. A day after the redevelopment plan was formally announced, a $15 million federal grant for the transit system was awarded. The city-parish has committed $17 million for the express bus.

Tyson said the goal is to begin construction on at least one of the major projects in 2020.

IBM hits hiring goal, penalized $1.4M

In August, IBM filed paperwork to show that it exceeded state incentive requirements that it employ at least 800 workers at its Baton Rouge Client Innovation Center downtown as of June, but fell short for the average number of employees in the contract year.

IBM faced a $10,000 per job penalty for any shortfall by June 30 because its state incentive contract ran between July and June. The average number of employees in the contract year was only 656 workers, or 144 workers short. IBM was expected to pay $1.4 million to the state, but it was not immediately clear whether the company has done so yet.

The company was in a hiring spree to hit its goal and had to hire more than 200 employees in the past year. By June 30, the company had hired 811 workers.

It had expected to hire many more by the end of year.

Could it be Amazon?

An Atlanta-based developer whose clients include, Mercedes-Benz USA and Best Buy is planning to build an 111,000-square-foot South Baton Rouge Distribution center on an undeveloped 34-acre site near Industriplex off Siegen Lane on land owned by Bethany World Prayer Center.

The 111,918-square-foot distribution center includes office space, storage, van parking and room for 18-wheelers, according to a site plan filed by Seefried Industrial Properties Inc. with the city-parish Planning Commission.

Amazon, a major online retailer that has expanded rapidly in recent years, already operates a 21,000-square-foot tent structure on land it leased last year off Airline Highway near the Costco at Interstate 12. The tent-like Baton Rouge structure installed about a year ago has been duplicated in several cities around the country, many with the stipulation they are temporary and to be used for a maximum two years. Amazon's Baton Rouge tent structure was designed to collect packages that come from larger Amazon centers that need to go “the last mile” into the hands of customers.

Seefried's proposed project includes 234 employee parking spots, 12 bicycle parking spots, 712 delivery van parking spots and 18 parking spots for 18-wheeler trucks. While a tenant logo for the building was blank on the plans for the single-story distribution center, it included an area for "flex delivery vans." Amazon has trademarked Amazon Flex, which refers to its program where on-demand independent contractor drivers deliver packages often in personal vehicles.

The site plan filed in Baton Rouge is expected to be reviewed by the Planning Commission on Jan. 21. Amazon declined to discuss any plans for Baton Rouge.

Hospitals scale up and down

Two major medical facilities opened — the new Our Lady of the Lake Children's hospital and Ochsner's The Grove — but that's not slowing down health care providers' activity in the Baton Rouge market. They are focusing efforts on chasing patients into outlying areas and into neighborhoods through smaller hospitals and dozens of clinics in the region.

New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System has been investing in the Baton Rouge market for several years after it acquired the former Summit Hospital along Interstate 12 at O’Neal Lane in 2008 and established a network of clinics.

Ochsner sought to partner with Baton Rouge General System, but the partnership that would have enabled joint operations of three hospitals and 31 clinics was abandoned in 2016. Ochsner’s top brass evaluated its presence in the Baton Rouge market when a lease inside Baton Rouge General Medical Center on Bluebonnet Boulevard wasn’t going to be extended and decided to spend $116 million to open a new medical complex at The Grove nearby.

Meanwhile, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System opened a new $230 million children’s hospital near its Our Lady of the Lake campus. More recently, Our Lady of the Lake and the Baton Rouge-based physician owned NeuroMedical Center announced a partnership for a new 20-bed neuro intensive care unit inside OLOL. The $13 million facility is expected to open in December 2020. It will allow the hospital to offer better care to the 2,000 stroke patients it sees each year. FMOLHS also expects to open a $3.3 million 10-room surgical neonatal unit inside the new Children’s Hospital in 2020.

Likewise, Baton Rouge General has been upgrading its existing hospital and branching out with smaller-scale services. The Baton Rouge General Foundation's RISE campaign seeks to raise $10 million for four areas: A new Center for Health, at its Bluebonnet campus, which will involve adding six operating suites to a medical office building that had been occupied by Ochsner Health System, as well as moving outpatient rehab services and graduate medical education programs to the building; a new Burn Center at Bluebonnet; new equipment for its Pennington Cancer Center and a new Ascension Neighborhood Hospital in Prairieville.

Woman’s Hospital has a new CEO at the helm, Dr. Barbara Griffith, who replaces the longtime top executive at the hospital. Woman’s is continuing development on its campus for housing to attract workers and signed an agreement for Engquist Development to develop a 100-acre tract into a neighborhood with homes that sell for $200,000 and above.

The neighborhood will be called Materra and is set to include a clubhouse, pool, outdoor fitness trail, playground, open green space, commercial business, and BASIS Charter School, which opened in 2018. Early stages of construction are set to begin soon, the first homes starting construction in late 2020.

Waitr looking to rebound

Lake Charles-based Waitr Holdings Inc., which has major operations in Lafayette and serves much of Louisiana, was flying high when its market capitalization hit $900 million in March just a few months after going public in a stock sale. 

The on-demand food delivery business even acquired a similar-sized competitor, Bite Squad. But the merging of operations proved to be a rockier task than the company anticipated. Waitr wrote off much of the value of the Bite Squad acquisition by September. 

Over the course of the year, the company also laid off hundreds of workers, founder Chris Meaux resigned as CEO but remains chairman of the company's board and its stock price fell below $1 per share. Waitr has been warned by the Nasdaq stock exchange that it may be on the path to delisting from the exchange if it doesn't pull its closing bid price above $1 per share by June 2020.

As of Sept. 30, Waitr had $52 million in cash on hand, down from $72 million as of June 30, as it works to regain its footing. To make sure Waitr — its employees and investors alike — make it safely there, Chief Executive Officer Adam Price said the company is relying on its drivers to become so efficient the company won't have to hire nearly as many when the volume of online food delivery orders grows in new markets. Waitr also looks to hit $30 million in savings promised to investors for 2020. 

The company is banking that it can compete against well-heeled and financed Silicon Valley startups by becoming as efficient as UPS drivers in the food delivery world.

Bankrupt Bayou Steel finds a buyer

Bayou Steel, which was owned by a New York-based private equity firm Black Diamond Capital Management, filed for bankruptcy in September after it laid off 376 local workers in LaPlace, alongside another 100 employees across the country.

Last week, Liberty Steel Group, part of a conglomerate owned by British-Indian industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, said it expects to pay $28 million to buy Bayou Steel out of bankruptcy court.

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of January. Liberty "has developed a plan to upgrade and modernize" the mill, restart recycling operations in the second-half of next year and steel-making by early the following year, it said in a statement. The company has pledged to invest $90 million to upgrade the business, the court filing said.

Advocate buys Times-Pic, wins Pulitzer

New Orleans Advocate owners John and Dathel Georges purchased The Times-Picayune and its website from the Newhouse family’s Advance Local Media, putting an end to a long running newspaper war. The Advocate was already Louisiana’s biggest newspaper and has the largest newsroom in the state. 

The Advocate, which had been publishing a seven-day, home-delivered newspaper in New Orleans, is now using the brands and features of both publications to serve Crescent City subscribers. At the same time, the two papers’ New Orleans websites were combined under the brand.

The newspaper also earned its first Pulitzer Prize in April, for its coverage of Louisiana’s unique law that allowed for nonunanimous juries to convict people in criminal cases and was changed.

Shortly after the purchase of The Times-Picayune, Advocate President Judi Terzotis was named publisher of The Advocate of Baton Rouge; The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate; and The Acadiana Advocate.

Terzotis replaced Dan Shea, who led the state's largest news organization for six years. Shea became chairman of Georges Media, which owns The Advocate, The Times-Picayune and weekly titles around the state.

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