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Politico's Allbritton grabs Capital New York

By Richard Morgan

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Politico owner Robert Allbritton announced the acquisition Monday of Capital New York, his first media purchase since the July sale of his family company's seven television stations for $985 million. Terms for the purchase of the three-year-old publication, as yet unprofitable, weren't disclosed.

Capital New York, a digital-only publisher, promotes itself with the tagline "This is How New York Works." But its editorial focus has been narrowly confined to the media and politics of New York City and New York State.

Under Allbritton, though, this focus seems likely to broaden and strengthen as new ownership triples Capital's eight-member staff.

Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran, who served as editors at The New York Observer before cofounding Capital with personal funds, received another $1.7 million in backing in 2011.

On Monday, in a note to readers, the two proclaimed that Capital's sale to Arlington, Va.-based Allbritton puts the "publication on a stable financial footing, ensuring our ability to deliver quality local coverage over the long term."

Allbritton himself articulated expectations for Capital under his ownership in a memo to Politico's staff: "I have very big ambitions for this publication: to do in New York what we did in Washington with Politico.

Allbritton also announced a crossover of assignments designed to imbue Capital with Politico's editorial techniques and business sensibilities, while leaving its New York-based cofounders Benson and McGeveran in charge of everyday operations.

Although the deal surprised many, it was completely in keeping with Allbritton's motivations for exiting the TV business and embracing media enterprises like Politico, which he spun out of the family's station group in 2009.

As he put it in May, when announcing a possible sale of his family's stations: "Let me be unmistakably clear to you and potential buyers: there is no chance, none, I will sell Politico as part of the deal. In fact, my plan is to invest even more in Politico and to place additional bets on media companies that meet my definition of successful journalistic and business enterprises." Read more here.