In San Diego versus Chargers, is next move up to Beutner?

Wealthy publisher favored moving Comic-Con to Los Angeles

Austin Beutner
  • Austin Beutner
  • from LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce YouTube video

The battle between San Diego's Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Chargers, growing fiercer by the day, has turned the San Diego GOP's historic relationship with the team-owning Spanos family on its political head.

Alex Spanos

Alex Spanos

Helen Copley

Helen Copley

Herb Klein

Herb Klein

Susan Golding

Susan Golding

Patriarch Alex Spanos assumed control of the Chargers from Nixon Democrat Gene Klein in 1984, consummating the team's love affair with the city's Republican establishment, led by San Diego U-T publisher Helen Copley and her second-in-command Herb Klein. The ex-Nixon spokesman had mentored star quarterback and Republican Jack Kemp in his climb to Congress.

Spanos provided lots of money to Republican San Diego mayor Pete Wilson in his senate and gubernatorial campaigns, coming up with more than a million dollars during the course of his career.

In 1996, the developer plunked down $250,000 for a lavish bash held for the New York and California delegations to the Republican National Convention, held here that year. He also kicked in $250,000 to the city's GOP convention host committee, run by Republican mayor Susan Golding.

Then, in 2008, it was announced that Spanos had been diagnosed with a form of progressive dementia and would henceforth be stepping back from his hectic political schedule.

The next year, the campaign fund of Democrat Jerry Brown, then California attorney general, reported it received $10,000 from the suddenly reclusive mogul, and word circulated that son Dean Spanos was planning to move the Chargers to Los Angeles and needed the political assistance of Democrats to ease the way.

San Diego's Republican elite, backed by their biggest donor, U-T publisher Douglas Manchester, maintained there was nothing to worry about, counting on Manchester's peculiar kind of journalism to maintain the GOP's status quo.

Then came this spring's double whammy.

At the same time the Chargers were secretly putting together a plan to build a stadium in Carson, Manchester had been quietly negotiating with Tribune Publishing, owner of the L.A. Times, to sell the U-T, long the source of GOP domination in the city.

The twin revelations suddenly threw San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer — who won election through the efforts of San Diego's Republican machine led by developer Manchester and his money — off stride.

The mayor and his hurriedly packaged task force to save the team was swiftly savaged by Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani, a onetime deputy to Los Angeles Democratic mayor Tom Bradley and advisor to president Bill Clinton

Jason Roe

Jason Roe

Mark Fabiani

Mark Fabiani

Tony Manolatos

Tony Manolatos

Fabiani targeted the behind-the-scenes role of Faulconer's political guru and state GOP kingpin and San Diego lobbyist Jason Roe.

"What legal and ethical issues are raised by Mr. Roe's dual role as an apparent de facto Task Force member and as a registered lobbyist for the Delaware North company, which is bidding to become the new concessionaire at Qualcomm Stadium and, potentially, at any new stadium in San Diego?" Fabiani wrote Faulconer on February 17.

"Putting the legal and ethical issues aside for a moment, what sense does it make to have someone who is your chief advisor on political matters, and who advises a potential stadium vendor on business matters, play any sort of role with the 'independent' Task Force?"

This week Fabiani shut the door on the mayor's plan to hold a costly hurry-up public vote this coming December on the task force's stadium proposal.

That brought an emailed shot from task force spokesman and former U-T reporter and Faulconer city-council aide Tony Manolatos.

"Mark Fabiani has ratcheted up his criticism of San Diego in an effort to win the race to Los Angeles," wrote Manolatos in his June 19 missive.

"The team is not interested in a San Diego solution and hasn't been for a while despite all the efforts by the City and County, which has met all of the team's moving targets."

Meanwhile, the newly renamed San Diego Union Tribune, now under control of L.A. Times publisher and Jerry Brown backer Austin Beutner, has been decidedly low key about its position on the epic San Diego versus L.A. battle.

"The city/county team must do all it can to make its case, up to the end," concluded a 242-word June 17 U-T editorial regarding the matter.

Unlike the days of Manchester, there was no pat on the back for the once-favored Faulconer, which some suggest could prove to be a bad omen for the flagship Republican politico hoping for higher office, not to mention the local GOP generally.

Like Fabiani a Democratic former deputy mayor of L.A. and veteran of the Clinton Administration, Beutner has manifested considerably more enthusiasm for bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles.

"Returning to L.A. makes sense for a league that takes pride in its heritage, as the Los Angeles Coliseum was the site of Super Bowl I," blogged Beutner in the Huffington Post in February 2012.

"Los Angeles is not going to get a Super Bowl simply by whining or by tugging on the NFL's heartstrings," continued the wealthy Angeleno. "It's up to the city's leadership to get the job done — beginning with getting Farmer's Field built, the downtown stadium."

Indeed, but how near will it be next year?

Indeed, but how near will it be next year?

Added Beutner, "It will allow Los Angeles to compete for the likes of Comic-Con, the NCAA's Final Four, and Springsteen."

The plan for the NFL to set up shop in downtown L.A. is said to be dead, with stadium action now centering on the competing venues of Carson and Inglewood. Whether the new U-T publisher's desire to relocate San Diego's venerated Comic-Con to L.A. is still alive remains to be seen.

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Matt, this piece makes a bedrock assumption of the ability of the Light News, now owned and controlled by the LA Times, to alter political realities. With its rapidly-shrinking circulation and the credibility issues that arose from the mismanagement by Dougie and his cohort, the paper may not really count for much now. Oh, if it says the sort of things that you like to see in print, you'll probably still like it. But there's a wild-card issue in the mix now, and that is the love/hate San Diegans have with anything from LA. The opinions of the paper may soon be seen by local readers as just more of the LA Times, and ignored as such.

Visduh- I wouldn't worry about local readers. Not many were aware of Manchester's involvement, in fact large numbers read it only for the xword puzzle or comics... Additionally, many serious news seekers have been subscribing to the Times all along, ignoring U-T. I'm hoping that Beutner will bring positive changes in news and local government.

And while I won't miss the chargers (I refuse to publicly state my opinion of a gang of millionaire thugs who play a child's game for the amusement of the unwashed masses.), I would miss ComicCon somewhat. Harmless whimsey.

I won't miss 'em either, but I smell a tangled web of deceit, a shell-game aimed at striking enough panic among San Diegans to create a groundswell of support for millions of tax money into the pockets of the thugs and their goons.

Exactly my thought. Yeah, panic is the key to this ridiculous controversy.

You elites can be so heartless. What aspirations will our children have after they've been playing in the million dollar plus football stadiums at their high schools, knocking their heads together until they can't remember their times tables, so they are unfit for anything but tailgating? Can't you see their disappointment when their heroes must play in a dirty old used football stadium where we pay for seats, occupied or not? Do you begrudge them the estimated billion dollars of taxpayer money for a nice new stadium, so they can learn the lessons of NFL and buy a shirt with somebody else's name on it? Do expect our children to play in sandlots with no uniforms, coaches, referees, or screaming parents? Do you expect our leaders to watch from open benches with no private bar? Football! You dare question the unlimited value of football? Communists!

You think our priorities are a bit out of order? Like maybe we should fix potholes before we build a new stadium?

Ya get whatcha vote for. Whether it's our elected leaders or a new stadium, San Diegans get what they vote for. If they choose to spend a billion plus dollars on a palace rather than the crumbling infrastructure then they deserve the roads wrecking their cars. If they select 10 pro football games over clean and reliable water and sewer services then let them buy bottled water and deal with pollution from broken lines. If they vote to raise taxes to fund professional sports and millionaire players and billionaire owners then whining about it is not allowed. San Diego isn't LA and I'm glad it's not. There is plenty of wonderful things to do here 365 days-a-year. I can't fault the Spanos family for wanting to maximize the value of their investment, because if I owned the team I would do exactly the same thing. Since I don't I'll just watch them on TV with my friends from the comfort of my home where the sight lines are better, there's instant replay, a beer cost a buck or two, and there are no lines to use the bathroom.

If the Chargers and the City/County fund a new stadium that stadium will never be built downtown. The environmental roadblocks and the relocation of the "bus farm" will take years after all the lawsuits. The political hacks (Falconer & R. Roberts) will long be forgotten and the youngest Charger fans will be able to take their great grandchildren to the new downtown stadium.

I think what will be built downtown (but I don't know when) will be a new arena. If a new stadium is ever built, it will be built in Mission Valley.

Perhaps the one percent will pit the 99 percent's gladiators against each other to cut down it's enemies lists. Quite a spectacle! While the rest of the 99 percent cheer them on . . .

Wait a minute! Are we talkin' movin' frum virtual to actual reality?

And now the UT is owned by a Democrat political activist. I wonder where the outrage is from the "Manchester is biased" gang?

Yeah, except Austin Beutner doesn't own the paper. He's the publisher. As publisher, he is free to put his own stamp on the paper. The paper is owned by Tribune Media and 51% of Tribune is owned by investment companies and corporate employees hold the remaining ownership interest.

Usually every evil-doer gets a Potter pre-fix in his Reader stories, but not this time. In the many years I've lived here, I have never seen Alex Spanos referred to as "the developer." But I guess that's how he got rich enough to buy the Chargers.

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