Hotelier and real estate magnate Doug (Papa Doug) Manchester is considering purchase of the Union-Tribune, VoiceofSanDiego.org is reporting this afternoon. More than a month ago, on September 29, the Reader, on this News Ticker, reported the rumor that Manchester might be buying the local newspaper. Manchester told the Voice that "There's lots of people interested in that asset. There has not been anything completed. We're looking at it. It's a very complicated transaction if it were ever to come to fruition." At the time of the Reader's report September 29, a spokesman for Platinum Equity, the current owner of the paper, stated, "We don't comment on market rumors, even when they're false." The implication was that the rumor was probably false.
After the Reader report, Rachel Laing, flack for Mayor Sanders, sent out a tweet saying, "That post was an absolute travesty of journalism!" (Thanks to Matt Potter for sending me her tweet and also for alerting me to the Voice's story this afternoon.)
In July, Platinum Equity hired Evercore Partners to help evaluate the U-T's future. (Evercore had been hired by Copley management when it wanted to sell the U-T.) As reported many times by the Reader, Platinum bought the paper for less than half the value of the real estate it received. The paper, which had been worth $1 billion five years ago, sold for just over $50 million and perhaps as little as $35 million.
Manchester's interest would almost certainly be in the real estate. Some people in the newspaper business suspect that the U-T might be the first major daily to jettison its print editions and go strictly online. In that case, the U-T would almost certainly abandon its building on choice real estate in Mission Valley and move to cheaper quarters. In fact, the U-T might move out of that building even if it continued to operate the print edition. Platinum bought several other buildings besides the Mission Valley property.
Pictured: Doug Manchester