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New Orleans multimillionaire businessman John Georges has signed a letter of intent to purchase The Advocate from the Manship family interests in Baton Rouge, according to a report published by The Advocate. The acquisition is expected to be completed by June 1, 2013.

The Advocate report includes a reference to a news release that makes a point of saying,

The Advocate’s print facility, put into operation in 2006 on Reiger Road, is capable of handling increases in circulation to serve south Louisiana with daily news.

Put this together with the fact that Georges is based in New Orleans, has very deep pockets, and invests for the long term, and you have the potential for serious, long-term competition for The Times-Picayune for the first time in recent history.

The Advocate already has a toehold in the market with its recently established New Orleans Edition, which has a daily circulation of about 20,000. Georges has a track record of aggressively growing other companies he has acquired, so it’s likely he will use the New Orleans circulation base as a springboard to launch a much stronger push into his home town.

And make no mistake, the Picayune is vulnerable to competition. Ever since the newspaper became the stepchild of NOLA Media Group’s “digital first” strategy, it has suffered mightily. Its three-day-a-week publishing schedule produces, instead of real news, mostly warmed-over rehashes of information readers have already gotten from other sources. There appears to be little or no editing. Articles are slapped haphazardly wherever they will fit, with little or no coordination between the paper’s various sections, resulting in the same article often appearing in two different places in the paper on the same day. And what is published is poorly written and is full of uncorrected grammatical, spelling, and style errors, an egregious sin in the eyes of those who think a newspaper should uphold a certain standard of literacy to its community.

In short, The Times-Picayune has become a second-rate newspaper.

Considering the situation, NOLA Media Group Publisher Ricky Mathews and Editor Jim Amoss should be more than a little worried.