As Peter mentioned in Leading Off, Village Voice Media, has been split in two. The 13 alternative weeklies in the chain, including the Dallas Observer, have been acquired in a private equity-backed management buyout. They’ll now be based in Denver. Meanwhile, the founders of the company that became VVM, Mike Lacey and James Larkin, will hold onto Backpage.com. Questions and observations:
1. Why won’t the money behind the buyout identify itself? If you’re a private equity group and you just bought 13 newspapers, why wouldn’t you step up and say, “Look at us! We now own 13 newspapers!” If this whole deal is being done to separate the papers from the online sex emporium, then let’s see the terms of that separation. I’m not suggesting that Mike Lacey and James Larkin set up a shadowy shell corporation in the Caymans so that they could buy their own newspapers from themselves in an effort to distance themselves from their own smut, but — oh, wait, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.
2. Tod “All I Need Is One ‘D’” Robberson got to work early this morning. His post on the DMN‘s Opinion Blog about the sale went up at 5:17 a.m. Here’s the first sentence: “I received great news Friday from Scott Tobias, the president and chief operating officer of the new publishing company for Village Voice newspapers, which includes the Dallas Observer.” He knew about this on Friday? So why didn’t he write about it (or schedule his post to go live) until early this morning? And why didn’t he explain to us why he sat on the news for the weekend? Now, I’m not suggesting that Tod Robberson is in cahoots with Mike Lacey and James Larkin or that he’s now on the payroll of Backpage.com, but that sure would be an interesting development. Would it not?
3. Here is how the story about the sale in the Arizona Republic ends: “Lacey, who has the words ‘hold fast’ tattooed on his fingers, spoke with relish about the political and court fights ahead over Backpage.com. ‘It’s a retirement from journalism,’ he said. ‘This entire thing is still a First Amendment issue.’” Now, here I will make a suggestion. I will suggest that Lacey is full of crap. It’s top-notch, first-rate crap, but it’s still crap. This sale has nothing to do with the First Amendment. It’s about money. The people who run the papers across the chain got sick of the bad press generated by Backpage.com, which was clearly hurting their business. So Lacey sold the farm and kept the cash cow for himself. The question now is: can the other animals survive on that farm without the cash cow? And the follow-up question is: how long can Lacey milk that cow? And: if that cow, like all ruminants, has four stomachs, then what is Lacey feeding it? Plus: back on the farm, what if a talking spider spun a web on the barn that spelled out “Joe Tone”? That would be pretty cool, right?