Politico Publisher Buys Capital New York With Plans to Hire Dozens

The New Owner Has Ambitious Plans for Site

By Published on .

The high-velocity ethos of Politico is coming to the New York media scene. Robert Allbritton, Politico's publisher, said today that he has bought Capital New York, an online news site that covers New York City, where he plans to make a "substantial financial investment" to grow the company.

Capital New York on Monday morning, promising readers improvements to come
Capital New York on Monday morning, promising readers improvements to come

With Mr. Allbritton's investment, Capital New York plans to hire more than two dozen new staffers and introduce a redesign in the fall. The business model will borrow from that of Politico, Mr. Allbritton said, with ads and subscriptions targeted at the "most influential readers in the core subjects it will cover."

"I have very big ambitions for Capital," Mr. Allbritton said in a statement, "to do in New York what we did in Washington with Politico."

Terms were not disclosed.

Capital New York was founded in 2010 by two former New York Observer editors, Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran. One year later, armed with $1.7 million in funding, Capital New York began to staff up, roughly doubling the small staff to bring its employees to nine. Along the way, the former Observer editors reached into their prior newsroom, poaching reporters from the paper.

Mr. Benson and Mr. McGeveran will continue to co-edit Capital New York, which currently has eight employees, a Politico spokeswoman said. The site will operate as a standalone company, but draw heavily on Politico's business team and industry knowledge.

"We're delighted to have this opportunity to expand on what we've done and become a primary news source in our areas of coverage," Mr. Benson said in a statement. "It's a massive thing for us, obviously, to be able to draw on the expertise and financial backing of Robert Allbritton."

Politico co-counder and executive editor Jim VandeHei will also serve as president of Capital New York. "Our goal is to make Capital the essential news source for and about the most powerful people in New York -- the officials who run government, politics, business and media," Mr. VandeHei said in a statement.

There are comparisons to be made between Politico and Capital New York. Politico was founded by Mr. VandeHei and John Harris, both former Washington Post reporters. When the site rolled out in 2007, with financial support from Mr. Allbritton, Mr. VandeHei and Mr. Harris set about hiring big-name reporters away from other publications. Its high-metabolism reporting style has helped set the tone for covering D.C. and taken readers and influence away from The Washington Post.

(Last month, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat weighed in on the Jeff Bezos purchase of the Post, saying, "For The Post to thrive again, Politico must lose.")

The question now is whether Capital New York, which plans to cover the power centers in not only the city but also the state capital of Albany, can take more readers from New York City's established press.

The purchase "gives us the wherewithal to be much more ambitious than ever before about our editorial mission, which is to be a primary source of reporting for knowledgeable readers on the workings of the greatest city in the world," Mr. Benson and Mr. McGeveran told Capital New York staffers in a memo about the deal, first reported by Politico.

The deal also demonstrates Mr. Allbritton's recently stated intention to focus his assets on digital media. In July, Albbritton Communications sold eight TV properties in a deal worth $985 million. The sale marked the Allbritton family's exit from the TV business in Washington D.C., where it had long been a staple.

"This is the Golden Age of new media innovation, and I intend to stay on the leading edge of it," he said in a memo to employees in May.

In this article:

Comments (0)