NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Times Co is nearing a sale of 16 regional newspapers spread across the Southeast and California to Halifax Media Holdings, it said on Monday.

The possible sale, news of which comes just days after New York Times Co announced the sudden retirement of its chief executive, is the latest in a series of steps the company has taken to cut costs and focus on its most important newspapers and their websites.

With a weekday circulation of about 430,000, the newspapers included in the Times Co's regional media group are largely scattered across the U.S. Southeast and California. Among them are the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Ledger, Star-Banner, The Gainesville Sun and News Chief in Florida; Herald-Journal in South Carolina; and The Press Democrat in California.

The Boston Globe, which the Times Co had previously considered selling, is not among the papers that make up the regional media group and thus is not part of the proposed sale.

As a group, the regional papers have struggled recently because of weak local retail and national advertising, partly reflecting the broad struggles of the economy. In the first nine months of the year, the group had a combined revenue of $190 million, down about 6.7 percent from the prior year.

If the deal is completed, the papers, which have collectively won five Pulitzer Prizes, will become part of Halifax Media. That company owns The Daytona-Beach News Journal, among other papers and media businesses across the south.

The Times Co confirmed it was in talks to sell the newspapers after reports surfaced in the media, including The journalism website displayed a screenshot of the Halifax Media Group's corporate website that pre-emptively showed it as the owner of the Times Co's regional papers.

Halifax Media Group's page was later taken down and the company could not be reached for comment.

Shares of the New York Times were down 10 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $7.26 at mid-afternoon.

(Reporting By Paul Thomasch)

[Image via Niall Kennedy on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]