Reprinted from Fusion by Hamilton Nolan on June 14, 2017.
“When Peter Barbey, a member of one of America’s 50 richest families, bought The Village Voice in 2015, hopes were high for a financial and cultural revival of the legendary paper,” writes Hamilton Nolan in Fusion. “Today, the company’s union negotiations suggest those hopes may have been misplaced.
“The Voice, founded in 1955, was America’s first real alt-weekly. As alt-weeklies across the, country have collapsed over the past decade, done in by the changing economics of media advertising, The Voice has experienced its fair share of business turbulence. It was bought by the New Times chain in 2005, sold to another media ownership group in 2012, and throughout that period suffered financial losses, staff departures, and constant turnover at the top. In late 2015, the man that many hoped would be a true savior emerged: Peter Barbey, whose family owns a multibillion-dollar portfolio of clothing brands including Nautica, Timberland, and North Face, and who himself already owned a newspaper in Pennsylvania, The Reading Eagle. Barbey swooped in seemingly from nowhere to buy The Voice, declaring that ‘I unequivocally believe there’s great value in The Village Voice brand.’
“With his splashy purchase of a once-prestigious New York weekly that he vowed to revive, Barbey bore some resemblance to another man in the news: Jared Kushner, whose purchase of The New York Observer in 2006 helped springboard him into the upper echelon of New York City society, and then into the White House. Kushner also decimated the paper’s staff and reputation in the process. Voice employees hoped that Barbey’s tenure would turn out better. And Barbey, a self-proclaimed liberal who came from out of town, seemed intent on establishing himself as a real New York City media figure, not a dabbler. He took a New Yorker writer along with him as he house-hunted, eventually settling on a $26 million Greenwich Village apartment. (Peter Barbey did not respond to a request for comment for this story.) …