WEST PALM BEACH — The billionaire Cox family screwed West Palm Beach one more time on its way out.
After spending years destroying what had been one of this country’s best mid-sized newspapers, the Atlanta clan today padded its $51 billion-fortune by selling The Palm Beach Post and its sister paper, the Palm Beach Daily News, to New Media Investment Group, an equity firm masquerading as a newspaper company more famous for cutting labor costs to an extreme than for good journalism.
Apparently, the Amarillo, Texas, Globe News ran with ONE reporter for a while last year after it was purchased, then gutted by New Media’s GateHouse subsidiary.
It’s a detail that, for some reason, didn’t make it in the story about the sale The Palm Beach Post is running now.
The Cox family swore up and down it would select a buyer who’d be invested in the community and handle the Post and Daily News with care.
There were several local investors, my inside Post sources tell me, who put in credible bids.
But the Coxes picked the highest offer and the worst company, one that overpaid $49.5 million for both dying newpapers in a deal scheduled to be consummated in May.
Through GateHouse, New Media has been gobbling up local daily and weekly newspapers throughout the country for several years.
And, if it follows its own trend — the company’s Columbia, Missouri, Daily Tribune also ran with ONE reporter last year — here is what’s going to happen at the local newspapers’ South Dixie Highway headquarters:
— Some time in May, GateHouse suits who have no or little training in newspapers or news are going to descend on the Post to observe the routine. They’ll decide they need to squeeze more profits from an operation that’s about to start losing money thanks to an expected raise in the price of raw paper
— In June, more than half the 50 or so reporters left in the newsroom are going to get notice they’re getting canned. (The only thing that makes us feel remotely better about this is the fact the mindless Post managers propped up by Cox will also get walked to the curb after years of coasting!)
— GateHouse will then move the leftovers to a small, soulless office somewhere on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard since GateHouse opted against buying the Post‘s building
— By early next year, GateHouse will claim the kind of profit Cox hasn’t been able to show for years. The publicly-traded New Media will then use the inflated numbers to get new investments so that the company can buy more newspapers, and perpetuate its business plan to destroy what’s left of real news in the United States
If you liked the cricket scores that occasionally crept into the Post since, after all, a good part of the paper was produced in India, you’ll love what GateHouse has in store.