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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 8, 2004 16 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: Are AirTran's fares trully that discount?Hurricanes good for state tourism?The assets of Gulfshore Media has been sold to California-based CurtCo Publishing

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

DISCOUNT AIR FARES?

Proponents of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport celebrated on Oct. 4 the coming three-flights-a-day service of AirTran. Considered a discount airline, the Orlando-based company agreed to begin service here after the airport authority won a federal tax grant for $1.5 million, money that will be used to subsidize AirTran.

How much of a discounter is AirTran? We checked online the cost of a roundtrip airline ticket from Sarasota-Bradenton International to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport traveling Jan. 10 and returning Jan. 17. We checked first on each airline's Web site. Then we checked on Expedia. Here are the results:

AIRLINE WEB SITES

Air Tran

Coach$178

Advanced seat$260

Business class$508

Delta$178

USAir$504

Expedia Fares

Delta $183

AirTran$257

USAir$277

It should be a big season

While Florida's tourism industry is asking Gov. Jeb Bush to dole out $30 million in tax funds to help them rebound from the hurricanes, they might consider tempering their panic. Coffee Talk lately routinely asks business people what is in their crystal balls for the winter season. Here's a logical and upbeat forecast from Penny Hill, Sarasota-based mortgage banker at Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp.: "It's going to be a good season. Think about it: All of the Caribbean islands - the Bahamas, Caymans, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica - were slammed. Palm Beach was slammed. People up north who typically go to those places will have no place to go. The only places to go are here and Naples."

Local boy makes good

Bradenton boy Dan Denton, chairman and founder of Gulfshore Media, the Sarasota-based magazine publishing firm, has completed the American entrepreneurial dream.

Denton, the majority owner, and four minority partners, including Sarasota Magazine Publisher Jimmy Dean, sold 100% of the assets of their Gulfshore Media to California-based CurtCo Publishing Oct. 1 for an undisclosed sum.

The sale caps a 25-year career of building a city-magazine and upscale-niche publishing company that Denton started in 1979 in a dumpy office on U.S. 41 in Bradenton with what became a $35,000 line of credit from his father. At the time of the sale, Denton's publishing group had grown to $11 million in annual sales, more than 60 employees and about a dozen city and real estate magazines, entertainment programs and chamber of commerce books in Jacksonville, Orlando, Sarasota and Naples.

Denton, a Manatee High School and Yale University graduate, started his career as a reporter at the Bradenton Herald, at one time covering the Anna Maria Island beat. After a little more than a year at the newspaper, he says: "I got the magazine bug. I could either go to a bigger market and work where I had interned, or doesn't it make sense to try to start out on my own where I know people and don't have anything to lose? I went to a Florida Magazine Association Convention and decided to take the plunge."

His startup was first known as Clubhouse Publishing, which focused on selling advertising in magazines that appealed to Sarasota's country club set. Around 1986, after merging his clubhouse magazine with a business magazine he started in Sarasota, the two became Sarasota Magazine. Denton went on to publish a similar city magazine in Santa Barbara, Calif., but sold that in 2000. With the proceeds, he bought Naples-based Gulfshore Life magazine.

Denton, 51, says he and the minority partners in Gulfshore Media are now employees of CurtCo Publishing "with all the appropriate packages." Curtco is a division of CurtCo Media Labs LLC, a high-powered, fast-paced magazine conglomerate best known as the publisher of the Robb Report.

With backing from two venture capital companies, CurtoCo Media Labs describes itself as a 27-year-old developer of publishing businesses that has "(generated) nearly $250 million in value for its investors. CurtCo Media has had a single overriding strategy: to acquire and launch publications that address clearly identified vertical niches and to create powerful niche brands that lead their respective markets. Repeated execution of this strategy has brought its investors an average internal rate of return (IRR) well in excess of 200%."

Asked why he sold, Denton said nothing of the money. Instead, he cited "strategic advantages": more clout with national advertisers, more management resources and capital to grow. Denton is on the lookout for more acquisitions. "Our business plan in Florida is part of what they bought into," he says.

Asked if he is still as passionate today about his business as he was 25 years ago, Denton says: "Even more so."

Correction

A quotation attributed to John Harshman, owner of Harshman & Co. Inc., in the Oct. 1 GCBR was incomplete. The correct statement should have read: "Without the confidentiality agreement, which is a prudent business practice, the Golden Apple will not be able to pursue negotiations on this particular transaction. The Golden Apple is a small private theater with a 34-year track record. The Golden Apple is the only private for-profit theater in Sarasota, and its business is proprietary."

Let us know

Tell us about your business-related workshops, seminars and events in Sarasota/Manatee counties. Fax press releases to Adam Hughes at (941) 362-4808 or e-mail at [email protected].

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