Jose Isasi, left, and Jim Goodmon have formed a joint media venture between their two companies.
_____________________________________________________________________Hoping to capitalize on North Carolina’s growing Hispanic population, Capitol Broadcasting is taking a minority interest stake in Que Pasa Media Network.

The two companies have formed a joint venture partnership that will be managed by Que Pasa’s owners. Both media firms will share resources as part of the deal.

Que Pasa, which means “what’s up” or “what’s happening”, is the largest Hispanic media company in the state, operating three weekly newspapers, eight AM radio stations and three subsidiary companies focused on marketing, staffing and sports. The newspapers are based in Raleigh, Charlotte and the Triad.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Capitol is investing cash up front in privately held Que Pasa and has options that, if executed, will give it 49 percent ownership of the firm that was launched in 1994 by Jose Isasi and his wife Flora Maria. Both are natives of Cuba who fled the Castro regime to live in the United States and later became naturalized citizens.

“Our state is becoming more and more diverse and we wanted to serve the Hispanic market,” said Jim Goodmon, president and chief executive officer of Capitol Broadcasting. In order to do so, Goodmon said Capitol had the option of launching its own Hispanic operation, buying one, or forming a partnership. “This is the one I really like,” he said of the partnership, “so we took a minority stake in the company. Jose will run it.”

TV Station Is In Plans

Isasi told WRAL Local Tech Wire that Capitol’s up-front investment was “significant”.

“I feel funny. I feel like I’m having a baby,” Isasi said of the deal with a smile. “I feel very good about it. Jim has a solid reputation and I can count on his work.

“I am the little guy in this marriage,” he added, “but I realized that to get Que Pasa to a market like Atlanta I really needed somebody else. I needed a partner. I am very competitive.”

Goodmon agreed with Isasi’s aggressive approach, saying, “We intend to grow the company.” Capitol and Que Pasa have been in active negotiations since October of 2004.

Within the next two years, Goodmon and Isasi said they plan to launch a Spanish television station that will be affiliated with a national network.

While Capitol has invested in other companies in the past, this is the first time it will be actively involved in management of a partnership, Goodmon said.

Jimmy Goodmon, one of Goodmon’s two sons and head of Capitol’s New Media Group, negotiated the terms of the partnership.

Capitol operates five television stations across the state, including its flagship WRAL in Raleigh as well as two radio stations, the Durham Bulls baseball team and other properties. It too is privately held.

Isasi, a former Westinghouse executive and entrepreneur, and his wife bought a struggling Spanish newspaper in Winston-Salem then built a statewide multimedia company. The company became profitable only recently, Isasi said.

The two companies will begin sharing resources immediately, Goodmon and Isasi. For example, WRAL will help produce a weather page in the three newspapers and also provide weather forecast data for the radio stations. Goodmon also said a person will be designated in WRAL’s newsroom to handle the exchange of news from WRAL and Que Pasa.

Focus Is Local Content

Like Capitol, Que Pasa is very focused on news and local content generation. Of Que Pasa’s 60 full-time employees, 15 are reporters and editors and another 10 support news gathering operations, Isasi said.

“There is a tremendous need for news and information in the Hispanic community,” Isasi said.

To help explain the reasons for the merger, Goodmon and Isasi invited James Johnson Jr., a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to talk at a press conference about a recent study he co-authored analyzing the growing economic impact of Hispanics in the state.

Johnson called the demographic shift taking place in North Carolina as “unprecedented” and described Hispanics as “a major economic force”. Hispanics were responsible for $9.2 billion in economic output in 2004 and will produce $18 billion by 2009, he said. A University of Georgia study cited by Que Pasa said that 800,000 Hispanics now live in North Carolina and have $12 billion in buying power.

According to Isasi, Que Pasa’s media outlets cover 85 percent of the state’s Hispanic population.