The for sale sign is soon going up on a number of properties owned by newspaper publisher SaltWire Network.
Ian Scott, the executive vice-president and chief operating officer for SaltWire Network, said the decision better aligns the company’s physical operations with changes already made in the business.
“From my perspective, the most important thing is to reassure both our staff as well as any readers that this is not about selling the business, this is about selling properties that are better managed by somebody who manages properties,’’ Scott said.
SaltWire Network will be selling the buildings which house its newspapers in Antigonish, Sydney, Truro, Yarmouth, Charlottetown, St. John’s, Corner Brook, Shelburne, New Glasgow and St. Anthony.
Scott said two of the buildings it owns that it won’t be putting up for sale include the printing press in Halifax and St. John’s.
“There is a need to maintain it because of specialized operations. They will remain as owned by the company.’’
The Halifax Chronicle Herald building won’t be sold because SaltWire Network doesn’t own the building, it leases the space and that is what all of the network’s other newspapers will likely be moving into as well, leased space.
Some of the newspapers, such as Truro, Cape Breton and New Glasgow, have significant amounts of vacant space that is unused — space that was used years ago when each paper had its own printing press. Printing operations are now centralized out of Halifax.
Scott isn’t sure what SaltWire Network’s properties will fetch on the open market. They’ve got internal numbers but he wasn’t willing to release them publicly.
“We’ll be putting (the revenue) into the business,’’ he said.
In many cases, it will mean staff, such as the 90 employees at The Guardian in Charlottetown will be moving to a new location unless SaltWire Network signs what is called a lease-back with the new landlord. That’s why the Herald was able to stay in its building about two decades ago.
“We sold the building to a property management firm (and) the property management firm then looked after the building and we just paid the lease,’’ Scott said. “There is the potential for that to occur here as well with some of the properties.’’
Scott also wanted to guard against the perception that the company’s newspapers are struggling and this is a sign that SaltWire Network is cutting back.
“This has really nothing to do with industry trends or the industry as a whole. It’s really about what can we do best? What’s our differential advantage? In our case, it’s putting our capital to work in producing great stories and providing audiences to advertisers.’’
No jobs will be lost as a result of the property sales.
“This has no impact on jobs at all. This has got nothing to do with the business, per se, it’s about finding the best providers of leased space. We’re simply not in that business. We just inherited a bunch of buildings when we inherited the properties.’’