||It has been suggested that this article be merged with Creative Loafing (Atlanta). (Discuss) Proposed since August 2016.|
|Fate||Sold to SouthComm and other publishers|
|Defunct||July 3, 2012|
|Headquarters||Atlanta, Georgia, United States|
|Products||Alternative weekly newspapers in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities|
|Owner||Deborah and Chick Eason, 1972-2000
Ben Eason, 2000-2009
Atalaya Capital Management, 2009-2012
Creative Loafing, also known as CL Inc., was an Atlanta-based publisher of alternative weekly newspapers in the United States, including several Creative Loafing titles, which operated 1972–2012. The Atlanta Creative Loafing launched the career of best-selling author and American humorist Hollis Gillespie by debuting her weekly column "Moodswing," which first appeared in 2001 and ran for eight years. Jill Hannity, the wife of Sean Hannity, was the managing editor of the newspaper 1993–1996 until their move to New York City, which commenced Sean Hannity's television career.
Creative Loafing began as a family-owned business in the 1970s, expanding to other cities in the Southern United States in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 2007 it doubled its circulation with the purchase of the Chicago Reader and Washington City Paper; the $40 million debt it incurred, along with an economic recession, forced the company into bankruptcy one year later. By 2012 it had sold all of its properties to other publishers.
At the time it declared bankruptcy in 2008, Creative Loafing owned six alternative weeklies:
- Chicago Reader of Chicago, Illinois, sold in May 2012 to Wrapports
- Creative Loafing (Atlanta) of Atlanta, Georgia, sold in July 2012 to SouthComm
- Creative Loafing Charlotte of Charlotte, North Carolina, sold in October 2011 to SouthComm, sold in August 2014 to Womack Newspapers
- Creative Loafing Sarasota of Sarasota, Florida, sold in December 2010 to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, merged into Ticket 
- Creative Loafing Tampa of Tampa, Florida, sold in October 2011 to SouthComm
- Washington City Paper of Washington, D.C., sold in July 2012 to SouthComm
Other newspapers the company published over its 40-year history included:
- Creative Loafing Greenville of Greenville, South Carolina, sold in 2001 to Debby Eason, renamed MetroBEAT, folded in 2005
- Creative Loafing Savannah of Savannah, Georgia, sold in 2001 to Debby Eason, merged into Connect Savannah
- Gwinnett Loaf in north suburban Atlanta, Georgia, closed in April 2001
- The Scene nightlife weekly of Atlanta, Georgia, closed in March 2001
- The Spectator of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, 1997–2002, sold to Independent Weekly
- Topside Loaf in north suburban Atlanta, Georgia, closed in April 2001
Early years in Atlanta
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Expansion in the South
After a decade and a half in Atlanta, the Easons established new Creative Loafing weeklies in March 1987 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and in 1988 in Tampa, Florida. Other expansions or acquisitions included newspapers in Greenville, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia.
The company also expanded its footprint in the Atlanta area, starting two community weeklies, Gwinnett Loaf and Topside Loaf, covering the suburbs north of the city in Cobb, Gwinnett, southern Forsyth and northern Fulton counties. Bowing to reader complaints about racy advertisements in Creative Loafing Atlanta, the Easons established a separate Atlanta publication, The Scene, for nightlife listings. These three Atlanta-area publications would later be folded back into Creative Loafing Atlanta in 2001.
Sale to Eason Children
Ben Eason, son of Deborah and Elton, purchased the Tampa paper from his parents in 1994 and changed its name to the Weekly Planet. In 1998 he expanded the paper and launched a second Weekly Planet in Sarasota, Florida.
Two years later, in September 2000, he and his two sisters led a group of investors to purchase a controlling interest in the entire Creative Loafing chain, and subsequently brought the Planet papers into the fold. After a false start during which the May 31, 2006, edition of Tampa's Planet was prematurely published with a Creative Loafing banner, the Tampa paper officially reverted to its former name and the Sarasota paper became Creative Loafing Sarasota.
Shortly after the sale, Debby Eason purchased Creative Loafing's Greenville and Savannah properties back from her children. The Greenville paper was renamed MetroBEAT, while Creative Loafing Savannah was merged into Connect Savannah.
Partnership with Cox
To help finance the 2000 deal transferring ownership to Ben Eason's group, media conglomerate Cox Enterprises purchased a 25% minority share of the company for approximately US$5 million. In the process, Cox executives filled two seats on Creative Loafing's eight-member board. An uneasy four-year relationship between the two companies followed, as Cox also owned Atlanta's only daily, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as well as television and radio outlets in the Atlanta area. After the Journal-Constitution in April 2003 quietly launched its own free entertainment weekly named Access Atlanta, in direct competition with Creative Loafing, the Easons and Creative Loafing board members voted to censure the two Cox executives for unethical conduct, and by June 2004 both companies agreed to allow the chain to repurchase its shares from Cox.
Chicago and Washington
On July 24, 2007, Creative Loafing announced the purchase of the Washington City Paper and the Chicago Reader, along with the Reader's properties The Straight Dope and the SDMB, the associated Internet message board.
In a bankruptcy auction on August 25, 2009, Atalaya Capital Management of New York City, emerged as the new owner, paying $5 million (it was also CL's largest creditor, owed $30 million before the bankruptcy). The Easons had put in a bid of $2.3 million, and with the change in ownership, Ben Eason was removed as CEO.
Over the next two years, Atalaya sold Creative Loafing's remaining mid-market papers. The first to be sold was Creative Loafing Sarasota, which was shuttered in December 2010, with its brand sold for an undisclosed sum to The New York Times Company, then-publisher of the competing Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Herald-Tribune published its own free weekly product under the Creative Loafing name for some time after the sale.
In October 2011, Creative Loafing Charlotte and Creative Loafing Tampa were sold to SouthComm Inc., a publisher of alternative weeklies based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Creative Loafing's three largest newspapers continued under Atalaya's ownership for one more year. In May 2012, the Chicago Reader was sold to Wrapports, publisher of the competing Chicago Sun-Times, in a deal reported at $3 million. Two months later, on July 3, Creative Loafing Atlanta and the Washington City Paper were sold to SouthComm, for an undisclosed sum, and CL Inc. ceased to exist.
- Channick, Robert (May 23, 2012). "Sun-Times Owner Buys Chicago Reader". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- Celeste, Eric (July 3, 2012). "Nashville-Based Media Company SouthComm Acquires Creative Loafing Atlanta and Washington City Paper". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- "SouthComm Buys in Charlotte, Tampa". Nashville Post. October 10, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- "Creative Loafing Charlotte to be sold". Creative Loafing Charlotte. Retrieved 2014-10-15.
- "Fla. Daily Takes Over Alternative Weekly". NewsInc. via HighBeam Research]. December 20, 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2012. (subscription required)
- Howard, Joy (April 19, 2005). "MetroBEAT, Battered, Stops the Presses". Association of Alternative Newsmedia. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- Pulle, Matt (October 19, 2001). "Creative Loafing Savannah Becomes Connect Savannah". Association of Alternative Newsmedia. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- Kempner, Matt (April 4, 2001). "Weekly Newspaper Chain Cuts Two Stand-Alone Publications in Atlanta Suburbs". The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- "Raleigh, N.C.-Area Newspapers Announce Merger". The Herald-Sun. Durham, N.C.: via HighBeam Research. August 15, 2002. Retrieved July 7, 2012. (subscription required)
- "Collection Number 05319: Independent Weekly Records, 1982-2004". Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
- Edelstein, Ken (August 12, 2000). "Eason Children to Buy Creative Loafing". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- Campbell, Meg (May 1, 1990). "Can Creative Loafing Get an Even Break in Charlotte?". NewsInc. via HighBeam Research. Retrieved July 7, 2012. (subscription required)
- "Tampa Alternative Weekly Changing Identity". Tampa Bay Business Journal. September 19, 2006. Retrieved January 19, 2007.
- Iwan, Christine (September 27, 2000). "Creative Loafing to Sell Minority Interest to Cox". Association of Alternative Newsmedia. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
- "Creative Loafing goes to battle with AJC". Atlanta Business Chronicle. June 3, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2007.
- Hundley, Kris (July 19, 2004). "Weekly Planet is Back in its Own Orbit". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
- Hau, Louis (July 24, 2007). "Ambitious Move By Creative Loafing". Forbes. Retrieved January 14, 2008.
- Scott, Jeffry (August 25, 2009). "Creative Loafing Chain Sold to Biggest Creditor for $5 Million". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved August 27, 2009.