Union-Tribune Sold to New York Hedge Fund That Owns 200 Newspapers

by on July 10, 2023 · 9 comments

in Media, San Diego

By Lori Weisberg / SDU-T/ July 10, 2023

Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has sold The San Diego Union-Tribune to an affiliate of the MediaNews Group for an undisclosed amount, it was announced on Monday.

MediaNews Group is owned by Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund that owns roughly 200 publications, including the Chicago Tribune.

The News Group is the parent company of the Southern California News Group papers, among them the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Riverside Press-Enterprise, Daily Breeze, Long Beach Press-Telegram, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and Redlands Daily Facts.

An email memo to employees of the Union-Tribune said the Soon-Shiong family “made a good faith effort to rebuild and support both news organizations. We hope that this change now will position both the L.A. Times and San Diego Union-Tribune to succeed. The ongoing work of transforming the L.A. Times into a self-sustaining institution will be our focus, as we believe that Los Angeles needs and deserves a strong, independent news organization.”

In a subsequent email sent to Union-Tribune employees from the MediaNews Group, Sharon Ryan, executive vice president of California for MediaNews Group, said that cutbacks will be needed to “offset the slowdown in revenues as economic headwinds continue to impact the media industry.”

An effort will be made, she said, to find efficiencies in business operations, distribution and production, “while striving to support and prioritize the robust, local newsgathering needed to serve the communities that rely on the Union-Tribune for excellence in journalism.”

Staff was notified Monday that the new owner is offering buyouts through next Monday. If the company does not “reach a sufficient number of employees” to take buyouts, “the company will lay off additional employees,” the staff was informed.

The Union-Tribune employs a total of 220 in the company with 108 in the newsroom.

Responding to the announcement, Union-Tribune Editor and Publisher Jeff Light said, “I’m grateful to the Soon-Shiong family, who were good owners. Now it’s time to start another chapter. As our staff knows, this isn’t an easy business, but I have a lot of confidence in the future of the Union-Tribune.”

The sale comes as the Los Angeles Times has had to make deep cuts of its own. The media organization recently announced it was eliminating 74 positions in its newsroom, which translates to about 13 percent of its staff.

Alden is the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, behind Gannett, which owns USA Today and other papers.

The Union-Tribune, which has gone through a number of ownership changes, was sold to Platinum Equity in 2009, then to Douglas F. Manchester in 2012 and then to Tribune Publishing, which later became Tronc, in 2015, before its sale to Soon-Shiong.

* * *

Miriam Raftery, Editor of East County Magazine, had this reaction to the sale:

Today is a very sad day for journalism in San Diego. The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper has been sold to Media News Group, which is by Alden Global Capital. The company has a terrible reputation for “evisceration” of  U.S. newspapers, NPR reports.

Alden is know as a “vulture” capital company known for gutting newsrooms, laying off journalists and even closing some newspapers, the Atlantic reports. They also ended reader comments at all of their newspapers.

This is devastating for our region, particularly East County communities that already lack adequate coverage in our region’s largest newspaper. It’s also bad for democracy, with no robust discussion of issues and a publisher focused on profits, not news.

East County Magazine has struggled since the pandemic to keep up with our readers’ requests for coverage.








{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam July 10, 2023 at 5:26 pm

Terrible news.


FrankF July 11, 2023 at 6:41 am

Who knew that one day The Rag would be one of the only trusted news sources in San Diego??? I love your ultra-local OB/PL coverage combined with bits and pieces of regional news. And I may not always agree with The Rag’s politics or social activism, but I appreciate your honest reporting and dash of spice now and then.

One sentence in the above report should be noted. “They also ended reader comments at all of their newspapers.”

One of the greatest strengths of The Rag is the comments section. Please Editor Dude, retain and defend this feature. Many times reader’s comments clarify an issue or expose unknown facts and even sometimes my beliefs/thoughts are changed by other reader’s comments.

The comment section is so valuable!! Please guard and preserve it Editor Dude. I know it can be crazy at times, but you do a great job at keeping control without censoring.


Frank Gormlie July 11, 2023 at 9:58 am

Thanks FF. We’re very proud of our comments section and have come to realize that not one online or paper publication comes close. Check it out. Check out the Voice’s comments, or Times of SD or Peninsula Beacon. Sadly, they hardly have any – and now that the new owners of the U-T are eliminating readers’ letters — which is one of the first places in the U-T I always read — people will have no where to give public responses. Don’t worry, Frank, we’ll always have our comments (I do have to edit or delete a few that violate our loose comment rules).


Steve Zivolich July 11, 2023 at 9:23 am

The Rag is even super more important for news now!


Dr. Jack Hamer July 11, 2023 at 9:40 am

The newspaper has been on a steady decline for years, along with the rest of the newspapers in the nation. I think newspapers (unfortunately) are a thing of the past as we are fully immersed in the digital age. There is a confluence of factors, in my opinion. Newspapers have become obsolete with the news cycle appearing in real-time on smart phones and computers.

Extra special thanks to the OB RAG and its staff for keeping a stream of information coming into the OB community and allowing for comments.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 11, 2023 at 2:35 pm

I guess Pandora’s Box is open. Count me sad and worried. Also grateful for Editor-dude and The OB Rag.

Over recent years, the San Diego Union-Tribune has arguably been a much better paper than its flashier and better-funded Los Angeles Times counterpart. I read them both. But now the U-T step-sister suddenly has been cut loose to Alden vulture capitalists. No letters-to-the-editor? That’s bad news. What happens to the common weal? The free marketplace of ideas?

In fact, the U-T under miracle-worker editor Jeff Light with a small staff of excellent reporters like Jeff McDonald, David Garrick, Kelly Davis and others have helped us focus on important issues like the convoluted and scandalous 101 Ash Street deal, shady operations of a re-elected State Insurance Commissioner, record-high inmate deaths under County Sheriff’s custody, City officials’ attempts to legitimize destroying public records and thwarting freedom-of-information requests.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s flagship Los Angeles Times has been all over the trendy map since he bought it and today it’s reduced to slim-pickings — without a sports section or daily TV schedule, without once-great staff photographers and with all interior stories authored anonymously by the Associated Press. Too bad the billionaire owner couldn’t find the will to continue supporting two newspapers at this important time in populous Southern California.


sealintheSelkirks July 11, 2023 at 5:34 pm

So the extremely conservative and notoriously right-wing neoliberal family-owned Copley Press that printed my picture, page A-26 July 10th 1968, for ’22nd Annual Newspaper Boy’s Picnic at Belmont Park’ is no longer an extremely conservative right-wing neoliberal LA billionaire’s paper but is now an extremely conservative right-wing neoliberal NY Hedge Fund’s plaything.

Comments? We don’t need no stinkin comments. Not that they ever listened anyway, right? And I really loved this: …”as we believe that Los Angeles needs and deserves a strong, independent news organization.”

Ahahahahaha. That is freaking hilarious! George Carlin would have loved the irony of that… Soon to be strong independent news in San Diego? Does ANYBODY believe that stinking fish-wrap newspaper anyway? Ahahahaha.

A perfect example of Evolution in Reverse I would have to say. Or maybe terminal decline?



Frank Gormlie July 12, 2023 at 10:55 am

OB and PL residents should be aware that the “Point Loma-OB Monthly” was part of the deal and was also sold to Alden Global Capital as part of purchase of San Diego Union-Tribune.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 12, 2023 at 8:25 pm

No kidding, Frank, such an important point. The same will be true for the weekly La Jolla Light, where I live.

The Light had been showing signs of real commercial advertising support in the last year or so. The paper has had two excellent hard-working female reporter-photographers. They have been covering all aspects of important community stories consistently: unchecked UCSD high-rise expansion in residential neighborhoods; a recent Lazarus-like resuscitation of a La Jolla “independence” movement (which hopes to exclude UCSD from its new boundaries;) the chronic inability of La Jolla’s Community Planning Association to hew to any “community character” rules governing house tear-downs and permitted huge size of approved replacement dwellings. Also, Light letters-to-the-editor and guest opinions long have been mainstays for individual complaints to be heard, and apparently those will disappear entirely under Alden’s vulture capitalist managers.

Local journalism matters. Losing local journalism will be good for know-nothings and outright liars, grifters, shifty politicians and assorted other low-lifes.I think it’s amazing and terrible this is happening, especially at this moment in American life.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: