Media Note: Times Argus Sells Headquarters to Barre Mayor | Off Message

Media Note: Times Argus Sells Headquarters to Barre Mayor

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Nine months after putting its headquarters up for sale, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus has found a buyer — and you'll never guess who it is.

Actually, you will: Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon. 

As the T-A itself reported Thursday, Lauzon's real estate company, Metro, has signed a purchase and sale agreement for the 23,000-square-foot building with Times Argus owner R. John Mitchell.

In addition to serving as mayor, Lauzon is one of the largest landowners in Barre. He declined to tell Seven Days Thursday how much he paid for the North Main Street property, but said it was less than the $895,000 listing price.

Is it a little awkward for a key political player in the T-A's hometown to cut a six-figure check to its publisher?

"No, not at all," Lauzon says. "Listen, I don't expect special treatment from anyone and I don't need special treatment from anyone."

The mayor says he's been eyeing the property since last summer and finally decided to pounce. 

"I thought it was a very attractive building and I'm really kind of surprised nobody made a serious play for acquisition," he says.

Mitchell didn't immediately return a call for comment Thursday, but he told Seven Days last summer that the sale was triggered in part by the loss of the T-A's printing press during a spring 2011 flood. When he decided not to rebuild the printing press, he figured it made sense to sell the building and move downtown to a smaller space.

"I don't particularly want to be a landlord or ever invest any more in this building," Mitchell said at the time. "It just makes sense to downsize the physical plant."

The T-A isn't alone. As Bloomberg and the Daily Beast recently reported, newspapers throughout the country are selling off their real estate holdings in the face of dwindling advertising revenue and smaller workforces. Just last month, the Washington Post became one of the nation's biggest newspapers to put its headquarters up for sale.

Here in Vermont, the Burlington Free Press put 56,000 square feet of its College Street properties on the market in October. Free Press publisher Jim Fogler didn't immediately return a call for comment Thursday about whether the Gannett-owned paper has found a buyer, but the property is still listed online.

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