Sweetheart deal in works with DBCC to bail out News-Journal Center

It is rather ironic that on the same day the Daytona Beach News-Journal announces a proposed deal on the front page that has Daytona Beach Community College acquiring the financially strapped News-Journal-Center, the newspaper publishes a glowing story on what a great education DBCC provides.
Also on that same front page Tuesday is a story announcing a deal between the News-Journal and its nemesis and former minority partner, Cox Enterprises, to work together on a court-ordered sale of the newspaper owned by the Davidson family, which also owns Seaside Music Theater, the News-Journal Center's major tenant that long ago stopped paying its rent.

The article regarding DBCC acquiring the News-Journal Center says DBCC sought out News-Journal Center's operatives about acquiring the Taj Mahal on Beach Street for an undisclosed price. SMT would continue to operate under the new deal, but what's unclear is how SMT's financial situation would be handled since it owes the center more than $150,000 in back rent.

But there's talk it was the other way around and that the center's operators were offering to unload it below market cost. The situation is very sensitive since the community college, a publicly-funded institution, would in essence be bailing out a private enterprise at taxpayer expense.

There's also concern that the college would in essence be subsidizing SMT since it no has News-Journal funding. And of course, with this sweetheart deal, it would still be called the News-Journal Center.

The unraveling of the News-Journal began in 2004 when the patriarch of the Davidson Family -- the late Tippen Davidson -- paid $13 million for naming rights to help pay for the $29 million Lively Arts Center to house SMT, which is run by his daughter, Julia Davidson Truilo, a true patron of the arts.

But he failed to notify minority shareholder Cox and a court battle ensued. Ironically when the case went to court, the News-Journal valued Cox's 47.5 percent share at $29 million. Cox valued its own shares at $159 million. The Davidson family owns all but a few shares of the stock along with other minority partners Georgia Kaney, the current publisher and her husband, Jon, and David Kendall, the chief operating officer. The News-Journal also owns the Pennysaver and the (green-colored) Phone Book.

After a nasty trial in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Judge John Antoon valued Cox's shares at $129 million.

The News-Journal then appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and lost. The paper then appealed that appeal to the same court and lost. The end result was pay Cox $129 million in annual installments of $10 million after an initial payment of $29 million or put the paper on the open market with Cox getting its portion from the sale.

The deadline for choosing earlier this week was averted when Cox and the News-Journal agreed to work together on a sale with court oversight. The paper put out a memo to its nearly 800 employees and on its Web site announcing the sale.

The portion of the memo the paper did not put to rest rampant rumors of massive layoffs and/or buyouts which many metro newspapers across the country have done since many of today's readers go online for their news reads as follows:

"We understand that change is inevitable, and with change comes uncertainty. We will continue to do our best to help you with any issues or concerns that you have regarding your employment during this transition period as we move forward toward the sale of the News-Journal."

It's ironic how certain numbers are associated with the News-Journal's unraveling. First, Tippen Davidson paid $13 million for naming rights. That's an unlucky number. The News-Journal said it's dissed minority partner Cox's shares were worth only $29 million, and after litigation, the News-Journal would have had to pay Cox $29 million the first year alone in a $129 million buyout before the two sides agreed to work together on a sale.

And here in Southeast Volusia, loyal readers of the News-Journal's Daily Journal section, who enjoyed the array of community columnists like Mary Harrell and Marie Goodrich, not only had the section cut back from five days a week to three days, but these longstanding correspondents were sent packing. As noted here before, the "Daily" in Daily Journal was not removed from the masthead.

You can weigh in on the DBCC-News-Journal Center deal by voting on our Insta Poll.