Three Groups Vying to Buy U-T San Diego

by on March 6, 2015 · 0 comments

in Culture, Media, Politics, San Diego

U-T new nameplateBy Doug Porter

A report by media analyst Ken Doctor in Capital New York’s media column says U-T San Diego owner “Papa” Doug Manchester has been actively looking to sell for six months now.

The story indicates the Tribune Publishing, parent company for the Los Angeles Times, is close to making a deal with an estimated $80-90 million price tag, which will not include the company’s real estate assets. Questions surrounding U-T San Diego’s $60 million in pension obligations prevented the company from completing the sale during a short-term exclusivity agreement.

Two other groups are reported to be putting together financing to buy San Diego’s daily. A group led by philanthropist Malin Burnham and former Cox executive Bill Geppert told Doctor they’d raised about half the money needed to buy the company, which they’re proposing be run as a non-profit entity.

[Editor: The OB Rag published a 2 part series on Malin Burnham’s efforts to purchase the U-T: Part 1 and Part 2.]

Former U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch says he’s submitting an offer for the paper this week including its real estate assets for an investors group including venture capitalist Ron Burkle.

From Capital New York:

Yet Papa Doug, who didn’t return a call for comment on the sale, hasn’t given the Burnham/Geppert group what it says it has needed to complete community fund-raising and structure-building: its own window of exclusivity. Though almost three windows of 90 days have passed since Manchester first started letting locals know last summer that he wasn’t built to sit behind a desk and run a newspaper enterprise, Burnham’s group hasn’t gotten that commitment in this cat-and-mouse game of selling and buying, which Manchester is handling himself, sans broker….

…Since last summer, Lynch has been trying to line up a private equity partner to get his deal done with Manchester—a deal which, unlike the Tribune or Burnham ones, could include the real estate as well. In this go-round—he, too, says he is submitting a new bid this week—he may have lined up a name familiar to those tracking newspaper property sales of the last half-dozen years, as a would-be partner: Ron Burkle. Burkle, who heads Yucaipa Companies and made his fortune in part on grocery chain roll-up, was mentioned early and often as the L.A. Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and other titles came up for, or looked like they would come up, for sale. Despite those frequent mentions, none of his bids for newspapers bore fruit…

…If the Tribune were to complete its U-T deal, the acquisition would create dominance in a huge market area. Add L.A.’s D.M.A. of 18 million people to San Diego’s 3.2 million, and Tribune will “own”—as much as any “newspaper” company can still lay claim to own—the largest geographic concentration in the country.

If Tribune Publishing–the most likely buyer, in my opinion–ends up buying the paper it’s likely that printing and some administrative functions would be consolidated in Los Angeles.

It ain’t over ‘till it’s over, but the prospect of having a publisher who doesn’t feel the need to call himself “Papa” would be a welcome change.


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at San Diego Free Press, our online media partner.


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