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Village Voice and New Times: Their love is real, dammit

vilvoice.gifAfter literally months of rumor and speculation – the kind that top Village Voice brass won’t comment on, certainly – it’s the kind of lede that must feel pretty good, even if the outcome sucks:

The Nation’s two largest alternative newspaper publishers have been in intense negotiations over a merger that would create an 18-paper chain controlled to a significant extent by venture capitalists.

Tim Redmond, the terrier who has been sinking his teeth into this at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, had unearthed the proof: Village Voice Media indeed be merging with the New Times – and they’ve got the draft May 27, 2005 merger agreement to prove it.

The salient points:

  • An 18-paper alternative press chain will be created

  • Control will lie with the New Times: it will have 62 percent of the merged entity and Village Voice Media will have 38 percent
  • This will be reflected in the Board as well: the New Times will have a 5-4 majority, including Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, the executive editor and CEO of New Times respectively, and New Times chief financial officer Jed Brunst and two other New Times picks, including one New Times venture capitalist representative
  • Village Voice Media CEO David Schneiderman will also sit on the board, along with seats representing his three investors
  • Schneiderman will receive a $500,000 bonus for “his work on the merger”
  • This will surely not make Robert Christgau and co. very happy
  • The Village Voice union contracts (recently the subject of much squabble and dissention) – will be honored (presumably however cheaply “honored” may be defined). But according to SFBG, “other employees may not fare so well”: they have a source that says “I believe the rest of the VVM corporate staff (essentially finance people) will be let go.”
  • The resulting company will represent 14.2% of the membership of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies “and would give one chain operation control of some of the biggest media markets in the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Denver, Seattle, Phoenix, and Houston”
  • Closing is set for November 30, 2005

The only thing that’s surprising about this, of course, is the magnitude of the leak from the notoriously secretive parties – Redmond’s got a whole whack of documents along with the draft Merger Agreement, including a memo from Schneiderman worrying about the New Times dead weight and draft bylaws for the merged corporation. Still, it’s sad to think of what might be lost. Ah, well. Anyone who is not notoriously secretive and would like to drop us a tip, please do so at FISHBOWLNY@mediabistro.com.

Exclusive: Internal Village Voice documents detail plans to create 18-paper alt-press chain [SFBG]

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