Rumor: Papa Doug Buying U-T

This is strictly a rumor, but worth reporting. It goes like this: iconic local hotelier Doug (Papa Doug) Manchester is buying the U-T. I have not yet heard back from Platinum Equity, the Beverly Hills private equity group that owns the U-T, and could not scare up anybody at Manchester's office.

The roots of the rumor go deep: on July 11 Platinum hired Evercore Partners to help evaluate strategic alternatives for the U-T. About a week ago, some distinguished-looking people in suits were going through the building, stirring up a buzz. However, if one of them had been Manchester, the employees would have recognized him. Also recently, some reporters from other papers called to see if it was true that the paper was being sold: editor Jeff Light then denied it.

Manchester as a buyer would be full of ironies. He is not cooperative with the press. His interest would probably be in the real estate end of the deal. That was one of Platinum's main interests, but it has not been successful dumping real estate. Platinum paid only $50 million for the U-T, and may have paid as little as $35 million.

The Mission Valley office alone is assessed at $92 million, and several other buildings went to Platinum in the deal. Manchester earlier this year sold the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel to Host Hotels for $570 million in cash and stock, but his stock in NextWave has been doing very poorly.



NO COMMENT FROM PLATINUM: Before posting this, I had put in a call to Mark Barnhill, spokesperson for Platinum Equity, and his assistant, Dan Whelan. Whelan has sent me an email: "Mark is tied up right now but asked me to tell you that we don't discuss prospective acquisitions or divestitures and we don't comment on market rumors, even when they're false." I have been given this response several times by Platinum when calling on other matters. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, just like the way the Navy neither confirms or denies the presence of nuclear weapons on its carriers.

And the FBI neither confirms nor denies the existence of an investigation. And a fast buck artist, when agreeing to be sanctioned by the SEC, says he accepts the penalty but doesn't acknowledge nor deny his role in the heft. Or, "I didn't do it and I won't do it again." Best, Don Bauder

If Papa Doug buys the U-T, he'll probably keep the real estate and shut the paper down. He would then build a huge office complex on the Mission Valley headquarters site to recoup his investment. Platinum probably realizes at this point that the paper is going to have to be shut down, but doesn't want to go through the stress of having to fire everyone. Gores is trying to establish himself as the new Donald Trump and does not want the negative publicity a mass layoff would entail. I would start monitoring the WARN notices for a big layoff at the U-T.

B is proably correct. The U-T today looks like a supoed up version of my K-6 paper, the "The Weekly Reader".

Loved those special all-color summer issues!

Manchester has not only been uncooperative with the press, he has been downright contemptuous of it. However, the SD commercial real estate market shows few signs of recovery. We all like to buy at the bottom, but would Manchester buy when the market is this ill? I guess it depends on the price. Platinum paid little; maybe it will sell it for even less. IF THIS RUMOR HAS VALIDITY -- and I stress it may not - employees should start making other plans. Best, Don Bauder

Burwell, if you are right, that would mean that the U-T would be no more. Has any city in the US of similar size to San Diego lost its only daily paper? There would be a void to fill for sure. What would fill that news void? Or does it even need to be filled?

The paper edition could be dumped and the online version remain. The U-T could move out of the Mission Valley office to rented quarters. The MV buildig could be torn down. That will be valuable property again some day. Is Manchester willing to wait? Or is this just another bad rumor? There have been plenty through the years. Best, Don Bauder

I doubt if Doug is dumb enough to overpay for real estate - he would not buy the UT to shut it down. Much better real estate available at less cost. Get a clue.

No one is suggesting that Papa Doug would overpay. A basic assumption is that this asset would go very cheap. Best, Don Bauder

7.I doubt if Doug is dumb enough to overpay for real estate - he would not buy the UT to shut it down. Much better real estate available at less cost. Get a clue.


According to Don, Platinum Inequity bought the U-T from Copley Press for less than the value of the real estate. This indicates that the U-T as a newspaper is essentially worthless. It appears that the paper would require millions in capital investment to remain viable, for example new printing presses and millions more for technology upgrades. This investment would likely never pay off in profits. The paper is a rotted out hulk waiting to slip beneath the waves. If Manchester buys the U-T, it will be for the value of the land, not the paper. If Manchester buys the U-T, he will likely shutter the paper and develop the land.

Remember, Platinum Equity claims the paper is now profitable. Of course, that's after massive layoffs. The future of metro dailies is definitely questionable. Just look around: LA Times, OC Register, Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, etc. etc. Best, Don Bauder

Printed on the front cover the of SDUT paper is “More than 1,000,000 Readers”

How can they claim that with an audited circulation of less than 200,000? Five readers for every single paper they distribute?

Look closely and they claim that number of readers per WEEK. I was once an advertising buyer, and nobody would have dared make a claim like that to me. (I'd have tossed his/her butt out of my office.) It is a meaningless claim, especially in a county with more than 3 million souls.

Yes, I think the U-T lost credibility when it began making that claim. Best, Don Bauder

They're using Scarborough numbers in making that claim. Those can be inflated. Best, Don Bauder

Thanks Visduh, that makes more sense.

Today the word “weekly” is obscured by a graphic of the Blue Angels. So what the UT is saying is; 200,000 daily circ. x 5 days = 1,000,000 readers?

Why not kick it up and say “5 Million Readers Every Month!”

Hey, maybe you could copyright that slogan and then sell it to them.

You would have to lower your expectations on what they would pay. Best, Don Bauder

Ponzi, you have an appropriate appellation. Best, Don Bauder

Alexa.com is the leader in web traffic analysis.

SignOnSanDiego.com ranks #862 in web traffic within the United States.

Other news website traffic rankings;

CNN.com – 17th New York Times – 28th Wall Street Journal – 70th L.A. Times – 72nd Orange County Register – 767th

SignOnSanDiego.com traffic rankings fall between the Orlando Sentinel and fall behind the Minneapolis Star Tribune (792nd).

Therefore, SOSD doesn’t seem like a great asset either. It’s obvious where people are getting their news on the internet.

And it's obvious where people are NOT getting their news online. Best, Don Bauder

Then where are they getting their news? I suspect that many get no news whatsoever. Or that whatever news they do get comes from a "friend" over a cellphone or PDA. We have an appallingly large part of the population that relies only on TV talking heads for their concept of news. Plenty of opportunity there for spin/slant, especially if the listener or viewer is not really fluent in English. And TV provides only a superficial view of what is going on.

You are correct. A large number of people -- particularly young ones -- get spun news that isn't news at all. Best, Don Bauder

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