Georges signs letter of intent to buy The Advocate

Advocate staff photo by KAREN MARTIN --In 2005, The Advocate began printing at its 117,000-square-foot state-of-the art production plant on Reiger Road.
Advocate staff photo by KAREN MARTIN --In 2005, The Advocate began printing at its 117,000-square-foot state-of-the art production plant on Reiger Road.

David Manship, publisher of The Advocate, and New Orleans businessman John Georges have signed a letter of intent for Georges to buy Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper in a deal that is expected to close by June 1.

Terms were not disclosed. Manship, who is also chief operating officer of Capital City Press, which owns The Advocate, and Richard Manship, president and chief executive officer of Capital City Press, announced the agreement in a news release but would not comment further.

David Manship said in the news release that the sale will be a stock sale with no planned interruption in business.

“We are extremely happy about the prospect of selling our family newspaper to a Louisiana businessman with strong ties to Louisiana,” David Manship said.

Georges also declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Georges, 52, who has business holdings ranging from food service distribution to Galatoire’s restaurant, said in January that he had a “serious interest” in buying The Advocate and that he expected any official offer for the newspaper would be before the summer.

Georges had approached Capital City Press about 20 months ago about buying The Advocate. Georges had said his talks with the Manship family, which owns Capital City Press, were put on hold for several months while the newspaper launched its daily New Orleans edition.

The Advocate, which employs about 450 people, launched the edition in October to fill the void created by The Times-Picayune’s decision to switch to a three-day-a-week print edition.

Georges’ talks with The Advocate resumed at the end of 2012.

Georges Enterprises, a billion-dollar business, owns and manages a variety of Louisiana-based companies. Among those is the 98-year-old family business Imperial Trading Co., which was started by his maternal grandfather, a Greek immigrant named C.H. Pelias. Imperial Trading, a wholesale grocery company, has branches throughout the South, distributing goods to convenience stores. Other business interests are 68-year-old AMA Distributors; 91-year-old Harrison Co. in Bossier; and 108-year-old Galatoire’s restaurant in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

In recent years, the company purchased 61-year-old Union Wholesale in New Albany, Miss., and 76-year-old Clifford D. Fite Wholesale in Cedartown, Ga.

The Advocate’s name goes back to The Democratic Advocate, a weekly newspaper established in 1842. Charles P. Manship Sr. in 1912 formed Capital City Press, which at one time operated an afternoon paper and continues to run The Advocate.

The Advocate’s average weekday circulation is about 98,000 and Sunday circulation is about 125,000 — boosted by its recent entry into the New Orleans market. New Orleans accounts for about 20,000 issues daily.

The news release Friday noted that The Advocate’s print facility, put into operation in 2006 on Reiger Road, is capable of handling increases in circulation to serve south Louisiana with daily news.

The Advocate also disseminates news through its website — theadvocate.com — and various digital platforms and apps.