New Times Buys Assets of Dallas Competitor

With The Met Shuttered, New Times Has Dallas-FW All to Itself.

In the past week, New Times Inc. has effectively taken control of the alternative newspaper market in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

After finalizing the sale of FW Weekly on Wednesday, the 12-paper chain today purchased the assets of The Met, a Dallas arts and entertainment weekly that was shuttered yesterday by its owners.

Earlier this week, it was reported by that New Times sold a minority interest to venture capitalist firm Alta Communications to secure funding for further expansion. New Times CEO Jim Larkin said the mid-August reorganization had nothing to do with today’s purchase.

“We bought some racks,” said New Times CEO Jim Larkin. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

According to former majority owner Bob Bennett, the New Times-owned Dallas Observer will acquire The Met’s assets and list of advertisers. Bennett declined to disclose the sale price or the financial status of the paper.

“If you’re number two, you’re in an interesting strategic position,” Bennett said. “We had our position and we had good growth and good revenue. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s best for your investors.”

When The Met shut its doors at noon today, New Times emerged as the only significant alternative media presence in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metropolitan area. The company plans to take advantage of the clear field by increasing the combined circulation of FW Weekly and Dallas Observer to nearly 200,000, said Lee Newquist, publisher of the Dallas paper and New Times vice president of operations.

“[The Met was] a good paper that had a good, strong readership,” Newquist said. “As we know in this business, [survival is] very hard to do.”

According to The Met Editor-in-Chief Bret McCabe, the employees of the 65,000-circulation weekly learned about the sale Thursday afternoon when they were told to have their desks cleared out by noon today. The 40 employees each will receive one month’s severance pay, he said. Newquist said he planned to discuss the possibility of employment with several of the paper’s staff members.

“It was quite unexpected,” McCabe said Friday morning as his staff worked to collect its belongings. “Personally, I was pretty much shocked because I didn’t know this was going to be.”

Friday morning, the paper’s Web site continued to provide links to stories from the paper’s final issue, which was distributed on Wednesday. By this afternoon, the links had been replaced by an empty black page. The browser’s title bar stated simply, “go away.”

“We were always very proud of our paper. We had a fun time doing what we do,” McCabe said. “We’re here because we like what were doing. We like who we’re working with.”

The Met’s Publisher Rand Stagen launched the paper in 1994 and sold majority control to Bennett and a group of investors in 1997. Bennett said had been investigating “strategic alternatives” for several months. New Times made the best offer, he said.

The Met was not an AAN member, although it had applied to join the association in 1996. Its application was denied because of a marketing deal it put together with the local A.H. Belo-owned daily paper.

“The coziness of their relationship with the daily Dallas Morning News is very disturbing,” the Admission’s Committee reported. ” The issue was so paramount that the committee did not even discuss the editorial merits of The Met.”

Even when The Met was still publishing, Dallas Observer was clearly the dominant alternative in the Dallas metro region. This week its annual “Best of Dallas” issue weighed in at 432 pages, which ranks as one of the largest single issues ever published in the history of the alternative press.

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