The Dallas Observer Has New Owners; Village Voice Media, Backpage Split

voicemediagroup.jpg
The new company's new logo.
The longtime owners of the Dallas Observer have sold the paper and its 12 Village Voice Media sister publications to a group of VVM executives, creating a new holding company and cutting ties with Backpage.com, the controversial classified advertising company.

So: We have new owners, but the same old bosses. Which I think means we're not all getting fired tomorrow. We'll let you decide whether that's good news or bad.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but I would not be surprised if there were several barrels of scotch involved.

The previous owners, Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey, founded Phoenix New Times in 1970 as a response to the Vietnam War and grew it into the nation's largest chain of alt-weeklies. As part of this deal, they sold their stakes in the newspapers, web sites and other media products to a group of executives helmed by Scott Tobias, the company's longtime COO. Christine Brennan and Jeff Mars, themselves veterans of VVM, join Tobias at the top of the new company's masthead. That new company will be based in Denver. Its name: Voice Media Group.

Larkin and Lacey retained their ownership of Backpage, and in a letter to their former staffs vowed to keep fighting on its behalf in the courts and the press, where it's under assault for its lucrative but controversial adult-services advertising.

"It's a retirement from journalism," Lacey told the Arizona Republic. "This entire thing is still a First Amendment issue."

Tobias, meanwhile, vowed to continue to grow and expand the company's multi-platform offerings while leaving behind the tumult of Backpage.

"Backpage.com has been a distraction, there is no question," Tobias told the Wall Street Journal. "It's just not about what we do."

The full press release is below.

NEWLY FORMED DENVER HOLDING COMPANY VOICE MEDIA GROUP TO ACQUIRE VILLAGE VOICE MEDIA PUBLISHING PROPERTIES Voice Media Group to Focus on Expanding Multi-Platform Content Offering

DENVER, September 24, 2012 -- New holding company Voice Media Group today announced that it has signed an agreement to purchase the publishing and related sales properties owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC. The purchase includes the iconic Village Voice Media alternative weekly newspapers and their associated websites, as well as the national advertising arm of the company.

The buyout is being led by Scott Tobias, who has been Village Voice Media Holdings' chief operating officer and will be chief executive officer of the new Voice Media Group. Christine Brennan will become executive editor of the new enterprise after more than nineteen years as the executive managing editor at VVMH, and Jeff Mars will serve as chief financial officer, also building on his experience as vice president of financial operations for VVMH. Tobias, Brennan and Mars will comprise Voice Media Group's executive team.

Backpage.com, also currently owned by Village Voice Media Holdings, is not part of the buyout. Backpage.com will go its own way as a separate company with separate ownership.

"Voice Media Group will center its attention on the growth of the renowned weekly publications and continue its expansion into new and exciting mobile and online platforms," said Tobias. "We are focused on building a dynamic media business that allows our advertisers to target local audiences through multiple platforms. We will continue to offer advertisers a national footprint with hyper-local reach and we will continue to provide high-caliber and comprehensive content to our readers."

Under the terms of the agreement, Voice Media Group will own and operate the following print publications and corresponding digital properties: Village Voice (New York), LA Weekly (Los Angeles), Westword (Denver), New Times (Phoenix), Houston Press, Dallas Observer, Riverfront Times (St. Louis), New Times (Miami), City Pages (Minneapolis), New Times (Broward), SF Weekly (San Francisco), Seattle Weekly, and OC Weekly (Orange County). Voice Media Group will also purchase and take over VVMH's national advertising division, which will now be called VMG National. VMG National will continue to sell national advertising for more than 56 partner sites and publications, reaching more than 3 million readers across 56 key metro markets each week.

"The publishing properties purchased under this agreement have always exemplified a commitment to editorial integrity -- delivering reliable and essential news and cultural coverage to their local communities," said Brennan. "Voice Media Group will champion and nurture this journalistic heritage."

The new company will continue to serve local markets with thought-provoking articles, opinionated reviews, and comprehensive events and listings, while expanding the brand's digital footprint across mobile and online platforms.

About Voice Media Group
Voice Media Group is a privately held media company focused on the production of relevant news and entertainment content across print, mobile and web properties for the culturally aware consumer. The company will own and operate thirteen leading weekly newspapers -- including Village Voice (New York), LA Weekly (Los Angeles), Westword (Denver), New Times (Phoenix), Houston Press, Dallas Observer, Riverfront Times (St. Louis), New Times (Miami), City Pages (Minneapolis), New Times (Broward), SF Weekly (San Francisco), Seattle Weekly, and OC Weekly (Orange County) -- affiliated digital properties, and a national sales arm, VMG National. At its outset, VMG will reach more than seven million monthly readers in print and 16 million unique desktop visitors each month, in addition to 1.2 million email subscribers, more than 5.7 million visits on mobile, and more than forty signature food, music and arts events per year nationwide. Meanwhile, VMG National will serve more than 56 partner sites and publications with weekly print circulation of 3.14 million and 94 million pageviews per month. For more information, visit www.voicemediagroup.com.



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53 comments
Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

When is "Dallas Notes" coming back?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Wait, there's a print version of Unfair Park???

sameold
sameold

Anyone afraid they won't be able to find prostitutes, strippers, and massages with happy endings shouldn't fear: there will now be crappy, paid-for-advertising-disguised-as-Best-of-Dallas-categories for them away from the back pages. 

monstruss
monstruss

So I guess this shitty Livefyre commenting system is here to stay? Great. Village Media Group got scammed hard by whoever sold them on Livefyre and that half-built monstrosity they called myvoicenation. 

ceepee
ceepee

Does that mean we'll say goodbye to this gawd-awful disqus? 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

How will I ever find a therapeutic masseuse, now? Or a new drummer for my shitty band?

 

J_A_
J_A_

Please keep the DO the same, I even liked you guys on FB :)

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Good luck. Usually these buyouts are characterized by incurring debt to buy out the owners, the service of which can lead to cost cutting and attempts to achieve increased productivity with the surviving staff.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

Seriously, the DO is good goodness........that backpage thing was just an annoyance.  It was funny to rip the gay ads out of said section, and leave them on random peoples desks. Usually with a circle around the pic, and note that said "must call!". 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Does this mean you can afford a sports writer?  Possibly bring Whitt back?  I kid I kid, about the whitt thing that is

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Now that ownership is no longer "distracted," this rag should be able to put out some really first class "best of" drivel. Let's get back to your roots with a best of hemp or best of police brutality feature, or a best of meth piece for your East Texas readers. Oh that's right, you lost the East Texas readers when you split from backpage.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Well, in my opinion, I think that ****CENSORED****CENSORED****CENSORED****

jerikjonsson
jerikjonsson

Robberson is just bursting at the seams with moral indignation this morning.  After the excellent 1st Amendment piece he wrote a few days ago, he ought to be ashamed of this effort.  I guess it really does depend on whose speech it is.

Texbard
Texbard

@Dallas_Observer Sell off the hookers, just don't sell off the well-tuned snark, 'kay?

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

MEH!  Then much slumber for the the Kergie Sloth,,,,,,,maybe when I awake from from my 1968 slumber, I'll care?  BTW, you could hear every nuance of every play at Jerra World yesterday; Dallas sucks!  No home field advantage, just yuppie's sitting on hands......THIS NO LONGER A FOOTBALL TOWN.   Sure, cheer yer shopping malls, and faux wood houses-and crappy restaurants, this town is made of soulless fruits. 

timmytyper
timmytyper

@joeptone @dallas_observer Does this mean Backpage HQ is leaving Dallas for Phoenix?

MAPLEANDMOTOR
MAPLEANDMOTOR

@joeptone @dallas_observer Maybe you could do something completely original now like a best of Dallas issue. You could have readers vote.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @sameold No there won't be. Thanks for playing, though. Please pack your knives and go.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @monstruss Not necessarily. We're trying to work out the bugs. If we work them out it stays; if not we try something new. Which one(s) do you like?

monstruss
monstruss

 @ceepee disqus has been gone for months and replaced with something much worse. keep up. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @primi_timpano They can always survive by re-posting HuffPo, Politico, and inane YouTube videos.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

 @ScottsMerkin He can't write Dallas sports when he's hosting a show on Yuma's #1 sports radio station here soon enough.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz No one censored you. We just asked you to keep your knife in your backpack when you came out to the playground. Comment away.

ceepee
ceepee

 @kergo1spaceship You could also hear what sounded like an amplified backhoe or something big backing up... *BEEP*BEEP*BEEP*!!!

G_David
G_David

 @kergo1spaceship It's not a football stadium, it's the world's largest living room.  And about as rowdy as mine when I'm watching Mad Men.  Alone.  I've actually heard of oddsmakers not giving Dallas the customary 2-3 points for being at home.  What. A. Giant. Turd.  On the prairie.

joeptone
joeptone

@timmytyper that is a q for backpage, I'm happy to report. We won't be sharing office space. We're moving to a new space in same building

joeptone
joeptone

@MAPLEANDMOTOR Whoa why the hostility? Not a Twisted Root fan?

bigjondaniel
bigjondaniel

@MAPLEANDMOTOR @joeptone @dallas_observer Or the most beautiful women in Dallas with the most make-up?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

 @joe.tone  I don't think anyone had real problems with the last iteration of Disqus. If it works for the Engadgets of the world why change? 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @Scruffygeist  @ScottsMerkin 

 

a sports blog?  what a novel concept!  or we can read Eric N. do a story about a Corvette in a parking lot; or the ever mundane top 100 dishes..  

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

 @joe.tone Bull.  You don't censor your rat pack, I see; just anyone that doesn't agree with you.

MAPLEANDMOTOR
MAPLEANDMOTOR

@joeptone I've never eaten there. They may be great. You might be missing the point, but I doubt it. Be the alternative press please.

ObserverHatesFacts
ObserverHatesFacts

 @joe.tone  @ScottsMerkin That's why he can't even afford to drive from his slummin' it East Dallas apartment?

 

And I gladly ruin Eric's day for free! I consider it charity work.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  @joe.tone who is the rat pack?  Im here a lot, they recognize us and long time contributors and even I have been told to Tone it down.  Dont be a psychotic witch and youll get to hang around 

MAPLEANDMOTOR
MAPLEANDMOTOR

@joeptone I'm inviting you to lunch one year from today. We can revisit the topic then.

joeptone
joeptone

@MAPLEANDMOTOR Being alternative doesn't require being grumpy 52 weeks out of the year. That issue is fun -- fun for us, fun for readers.

bigjondaniel
bigjondaniel

@MAPLEANDMOTOR in defense of @joeptone , that "Best of" thing is probably their number 1 revenue issue of the year. so it's that or paywall

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