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Gay Publisher Buys B.A.R.

by Cynthia Laird

Michael Yamashita
Michael Yamashita  (Source:Cynthia Laird)

The Bay Area Reporter has been sold to a gay man who has helmed the legacy LGBTQ publication in various capacities for more than 20 years.

Michael Yamashita, who has been the publisher of the B.A.R. since 2013 and was the paper's longtime general manager, has purchased the paper after acquiring shares from two former investors.

The deal was announced Monday, December 18, in an all-hands staff meeting.

Yamashita, 51, becomes the first gay Asian-American publisher and owner of an LGBTQ newspaper. The move also means that the B.A.R. remains an LGBT-owned and -operated local small business.

Yamashita will take over BAR Media Inc., which was formed four years ago in a restructuring of the paper's ownership. At the time, the Bob Ross Foundation had a 20 percent stake, Yamashita had 31 percent, and Todd Vogt and Patrick Brown had 49 percent collectively. Vogt and Brown were previously with San Francisco Media Co., publishers of the Examiner and SF Weekly, and the shuttered San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Yamashita now has an 80 percent stake in the company; the Bob Ross Foundation retains its 20 percent collateral shares.

The foundation, named after the paper's founding publisher, had to divest itself of the majority of its ownership interest in the paper four years ago during the restructuring.

As part of the agreement, Vogt and Brown have resigned from the board of BAR Media Inc. Yamashita said that he expects to nominate board replacements for Vogt and Brown soon.

Scott Wazlowski, a gay man who is vice president of advertising at the B.A.R., remains on the board of BAR Media Inc.

Yamashita declined to disclose the sale price.

"It's been an incredible experience since the day decades ago when Bob Ross first gave me a break; he hired me as an assistant editor and six years later suggested that I become the general manager of the B.A.R.," Yamashita said. "He, like Tom Horn, was one of many mentors I was fortunate to work with and am proud to follow in their footsteps as publisher and an owner. I believe in the B.A.R. as a community resource in our fight for equal rights and am honored to play a role in keeping it a local institution and connected to San Francisco."

In an email, Brown said that the paper "is in the right hands."

"Ownership needed to stay in the Bay Area and Michael Yamashita is the perfect fit," Brown wrote. "I have had the opportunity to work with Michael over the past four years and found him to be totally committed to representing the gay community through the oldest publication in the country serving this critical San Francisco audience. I treasure my relationship with him and the B.A.R. from both the growth and contributions we were able to make and will miss it."

Vogt did not respond to a request for comment.

The B.A.R., which marked its 47th year in 2017, is also a founding member of the National LGBT Media Association, a trade group comprised of LGBT publications Bay Windows, Between the Lines, Dallas Voice, Gay City News, Georgia Voice, Philadelphia Gay News, Los Angeles Blade, South Florida Gay News, Washington Blade, Watermark Online, and the Windy City Times.

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