By: Mark Fitzgerald
Media General Inc.’s Florida Communications Group, parent of The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV, said Monday it is offering voluntary buyouts to about half of its 1,326 employees.
Group President John Schueler said in an announcement on the Tribune’s TBO.com Web site that the buyouts are a way to cut costs significantly in the difficult economic climate of Tampa Bay.
Media General, in its latest financial report, said much of the chain’s difficulties can be traced to its Tampa Bay media properties. The region, and all of Florida, has been hurt badly by a housing collapse that has spread pain throughout many other industries.
Media General is facing a proxy showdown at its annual meeting later this month with Harbinger Capital Partners, a big shareholder group that argues the Richmond, Va.-based newspaper publisher and broadcast owner has not done enough to contain costs. Harbinger has suggested selling the Tribune, which Media General has said would be foolish.
The Tampa buyout program includes severance packages that for some employees could go as high as 39 weeks of pay.
Layoffs are possible if not enough employees accept the buyouts, Schueler said.
Other media properties included in the buyout offer are Sunbelt Newspapers, Suncoast News, Hernando Today, Highlands Today, and Centro Grupo de Comunicacion.