When David Copley sold the Union-Tribune to Tom Gores and his Beverly Hills–based Platinum Equity back in 2009, the vulture capitalist with Palestinian roots vowed that he was in the newspaper business for the long haul — all the while selling off a lucrative portfolio of U-T real estate that came with the deal. Platinum’s promise to stick around in San Diego lasted less than three years, as U-T circulation continued to plunge and news coverage collapsed, until Gores sold what remained of the newspaper in the fall of 2011 to La Jolla real estate developer Douglas Manchester.
The Republican kingpin frequently used the paper to settle political scores, ultimately unloading the operation last year to the Chicago-based company now known as tronc, which has continued to dismally shrink the paper. For his part, the bottom-fishing Gores easily moved on to his next high-profile venture, the Detroit Pistons, having snatched up the professional basketball team at the bargain price of $325 million six months before his U-T deal with Manchester was announced.
Akin to years-long declamations by the Chargers-owning Spanos family that they would never move their team from San Diego, Gores denied having any immediate interest in relocating the Pistons from the Palace, its aging venue in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills. “We all probably have thought about moving one day from our current houses,” Gores told the Detroit News in January of this year. “You still take care of that home and you respect it and it needs to be touched with all your emotions.” He added, “It’s always a tricky thing for us because this is our home and we need to adorn it. At the same time, we understand what’s going on in downtown cities and we’re looking at it very, very seriously.”
Now the billionaire has finally dropped the other shoe, cutting a deal with the Red Wings hockey club to share a new, tax-funded downtown Detroit sports arena. The arrangement resembles the way the Chargers may soon share a new Inglewood stadium with the L.A. Rams. Unlike the privately funded Rams deal, the Michigan project is being put together by the city’s redevelopment arm in hopes it will help revive the flagging city’s economic fortunes.
“Perhaps most surprisingly, the Pistons may not pay the Red Wings anything to play their 41 regular-season home games at Little Caesars Arena,” Crain’s Detroit Business reported last week. “In fact, instead of a traditional tenant lease payment, the Pistons could be the entity getting cash to play downtown.” Details have yet to be confirmed. The Field of Schemes blog reports that the total cost to taxpayers of the arena project is at least $334.5 million and climbing.