Media Takes on Sale of San Diego U-T to “Papa Doug” Manchester

by on November 18, 2011 · 15 comments

in Media, Popular, San Diego

"Papa Doug" Manchester - the new owner of the San Diego U-T.

Editor: We are not content to only read what the San Diego U-T says about its pending sale to Doug Manchester, local conservative activist and developer (known affectionately as “Papa Doug”), so here we have three other takes on the sale, the first from the LA Times – always competitive towards San Diego’s daily, the second from Voice of San Diego – and the other is a summary of the San Diego Daily Transcript.

Los Angeles Times

By Walter Hamilton, Tiffany Hsu and Tony Perry / Los Angeles Times /  November 18, 2011

Less than three years ago, the San Diego Union-Tribune was a struggling newspaper sold at a cut-rate price by its longtime owner.

The newspaper is changing hands again, but this time in a deal worth about $110 million to a high-profile real estate developer who pledged to inject new life and relevance into the 143-year-old institution.

Doug Manchester, a well-known but polarizing San Diego-based developer who refers to himself as “Papa Doug,” announced Thursday that he is buying the paper and its website from Platinum Equity, a Los Angeles private equity firm.

For the remainder of this article from the LA Times, please go here.

 Voice of San Diego

by Rob Davis / Voice of San Diego / November 17, 2011

Hotelier Doug Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday, returning the paper to local ownership in a sale that would appear to turn a big profit for a private equity firm that bought it two years ago.

In a brief interview, Manchester said he paid “above” $110 million for the newspaper. “The asking price was a lot higher than that,” he said. The price is more than double what the Wall Street Journal said Platinum Equity bought the paper for in 2009.

Manchester, a prominent conservative downtown hotelier who insists on being called “Papa Doug,” takes the reins as owner; John Lynch, a former radio executive, will become the president and CEO of the newspaper company. Manchester declined other comment, saying the parties in the sale had agreed to stay silent until the deal was finalized between Nov. 30 and Dec. 15.

For the remainder of this VOSD article, please go here.

 The Daily Transcript – Summary

The Daily Transcript article, by Elizabeth Malloy, ran on Nov. 17th, and as their online articles are only obtained via subscription, we wanted to publish their entire article. But instead, here’s a summary.

The DT reports that readers of the San Diego Union-Tribune “should expect no changes to the op-ed pages as a result of its sale to developer Doug Manchester, according to Manchester’s business partner”, and quotes John Lynch in a telephone interview. Lynch is president and chief executive of Manchester’s company MLIM LLC.  Lynch:

“That’s certainly not the reason we bought the paper. We plan no changes immediately on any of that. They have a great system of an editorial board.

“We think that it’s a 143-year-old historic business and one of the jewels of business in San Diego. As lifelong San Diegans — Doug is a native and I’ve lived here almost 40 years — we love our city (and) we think that there’s a place for the local ownership of the newspaper.”

Lynch told the DT that he and Manchester plan to “further integrate integrate the print version of the newspaper with its online presence”, but that “there are no plans to go to an online-only model at this point.”

Manchester, who signed an agreement to buy the daily in a sale that is supposed to be finalized by mid-December, ” is known”, says DT, “for his hotel and commercial property development work in the county, especially the Manchester Grand Hyatt on San Diego’s downtown bay front.” DT reports: ” Lynch is a founder of the Broadcast Company of the Americas and has a long history of owning radio stations.”

Here’s how the DT describes Manchester:

“Manchester, known to many as “Papa Doug,” often has been the subject of the newspaper’s stories, including a front-page piece this month on the California Coastal Commission giving a cold shoulder to his plans for a $1.3-billion hotel and office complex on the city’s downtown waterfront. He has been a key player in the city’s downtown renaissance.

Politically conservative, he donated $125,000 to a successful 2008 campaign to ban gay marriage in California. His efforts to pass Proposition 8 sparked a boycott from some gay rights activists at his Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel, whose twin towers are among the downtown skyline’s most recognized buildings. He has since sold his interest in the hotel.”

The DT talked to some analysts about the what the sale of the paper would mean in terms of its editorial policy and “standing in the community”. There were mixed views:

Here’s Dr. Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, quoted by the DT:

“My initial thought was that I was mystified. Journalism is not (Manchester’s) world. It’s not even John Lynch’s world. Lynch has a background in radio and television. But I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. I like the fact that there’s local ownership as opposed to some absent landlord. (Manchester) knows San Diego.

“He’s obviously a big, prominent person in San Diego, so it could have some very significant downsides, but he could also be smart and build a significant wall between him and the good journalism that the Union-Tribune is capable of doing.”

Nelson added that he thought – as the DT puts it – “the paper will likely lose readers if it becomes a ‘mouthpiece’ for Manchester and, as businessmen, the new owners want to avoid that.”

And then, here’s Steven Erie, a UCSD political science professor, who told the DT, it was a “very sad day.”

“He has a lot of enemies in this town. He is controversial, he’s litigious … It’ll be all the news that he sees fit to print.”


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Anna Daniels November 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm

This is just one more way that the 1% maintains its power- own the media. How will U-T journalists cover news about their locally prominent, controversial boss?


avatar doug porter November 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Dave Rolland over at City Beat was wondering on Twitter today about Bob “Bowtie” Kittle’s (the old UT editorial crank) probable return under the new regime. After I finished puking, I realized it’s probably a great idea for Papa Doug as he drives that beast of dead tree journalism into oblivion…


avatar OB Joe November 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Doug, yeah, but my wonder is whether ol’ Chris Reed will be kept on his leash or let loose.


avatar editordude November 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Just to be clear, the sale is still pending.


avatar Frank Gormlie November 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm

“Papa Doug” sounds an awful like “Papa Doc”.


avatar Bruce Coons November 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm

More like Uncle Ernie’s Holiday Camp.


avatar Mike Hosley November 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Maybe we’ll have another hotel to boycott in Mission Valley, or a less relevant source of news, but give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Look back into the history of the Copley family and it’s relationship to Nixon- it can’t be worse than in the 1970s.
At least Platinum saved the paper and made it profitable during a short period of time in a time when other papers just folded. That was a turnaround- and they saved a lot of jobs, the good employees and reporters at least were able to continue working and we can hope that it does not become his personal playground or like what Murdoch would do to it. I disagree completely with his views on some issues, but he’s at least beginning with a grade of A in my view. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with it and I do wonder how long before the Mission Valley land is redeveloped. I don’t think it will remain there.


avatar Baron E. Bernard Sr. November 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm

My first home was the U.S. Grant Hotel, later the LA Biltmore where Baron Long and my father ran both- later I was Manger of the Biltmore and then went on to assist in the development of the Marriott Mission Valley and the Westgate Plaza. I had a small role in Mr. Manchester’s first hotel development now the Marriott Warfside. I have watched the very positive impact he has had on the Greater San Diego Community, as my family remains in San Diego and my uncle, Carl Lichty served Larry Lawrence as President of the Del. I believe that Mr. Manchester’s acquisition of the UT boeds well for the future of the City. Finally, afer all these years, a successful businessman with a bid stake in positive outcomes, who has vision and has given generously for the expansion of jobs – has finally returned the UT to local ownership. Pundits may emerge to pontificate about this change. My personal take on it is that it will prove highly beneficial for each and every one of us: Finally a local voice–and John Lynch, President and CEO of MLIM LLC for Papa Doug the perfect partner to let that voice be heard. Let’s get behind this major Change and help them improve a city that will ensure continuing prosperity for all.


avatar Anna Daniels November 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm

BEB SR.– you seem assured that Manchester will represent your interests. I am not the least convinced that he will in any way represent the majority of our interests in journalism.
Statements like “He wants that sports page to be an advocate for a new football stadium “and call out those who don’t as obstructionists” or “But Lynch said he wants the paper to be pro-business. The sports page to be pro-Chargers stadium. And reporters to become stars (VoSD)” are filled with a knee jerk boosterism that should give us pause.
Reporters are going to become stars? Just what we need.


avatar jf brady November 18, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Papa Doug? Is he your father?


avatar doug porter November 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I love the bit about ensuring continuing prosperity for all. Must be some good meds you’re getting.


avatar jim grant November 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Well it was for sale and he had the cash good for him…..hopefully he and his team will be a little more open to freelance photographers !!


avatar Karen Grube November 18, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Yeah!!! I can finally subscribe to the UT again!!! I canceled my subscription when they came out against Prop 8. I’m really glad. Thank you, Mr. Manchester. I’m especially excited to see how the UT endorsements will go in the 2012 elections, especially for Mayor, Congress and the Senate.


avatar Mario Simon November 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm

So pretty much nothing about the paper and its conservative leanings is going to change. Roger.

Mr. Bernard, I like your optimisim but you comment scares me frankly.


avatar Baron E. Bernard Sr. November 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Food for Thought. The beauty of this e-mail interaction is that it shows that many many of us are deeply concered with the “Way Forward” for the City and the newspaper that chronicles its progress. It represents our “collective consiousness”. That being the case, each of us can be energized to make a continuing contribution. This message is a very small part of that. Years ago I coined what I think was a NEW WORD…at least I hadn’t heard of it before. See what you think it means: “yestermorrow” …defined: consiousness experienced at one point in time including the consiousness of 1.) the history of your past 2.) the moment and 3.) your vision of the future. Find a very quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Sit comfortabley in silence. Spend 10 or 15 minutes contemplating Yestermorow. You can also do a mantra such as Maharishie Mahesh Yogi taught at the Self Realization Fellowship…repeating ancient word for God over and over to the effect removing all thought from your consious mind..and THEN focusing on your vision of the future, planing your day, week, month or lifetime.


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