May 7, 2015 Last Updated 7:35 am

Tribune Publishing acquires the San Diego Union-Tribune for $73M in cash and $12M in stock

Acquisition of the properties formerly owned by Copley Press, include nine community weeklies as well as the digital properties

Tribune Publishing announced this evening that they have acquired MLIM, LLC, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The daily newspaper in San Diego was acquired by Copley Press in 1928, with the two dailies – the Union and Tribune – merged in 1991. The media company was sold in 2009 to the private equity company Platinum Equity as Copley unloaded its holdings. (Copley previously sold its Los Angeles community papers to MediaNews Group earlier.)

Doug Manchester bought the paper in 2011, using the paper to try – and often fail – to boost his businesses interests. Under Manchester, the name of the paper was changed to the U-T, but Tribune’s announcement (below) returns to calling the paper the Union-Tribune. In the deal Manchester will maintain ownership of the building in Mission Valley, with Tribune Publishing temporarily leasing it back.

Austin Beutner, publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times, will add the San Diego property to his duties. Beutner said the U-T would maintain a separate newsroom from the Times but “I also know the Los Angeles Times will benefit from a closer connection with its older sibling down south.”

Today, the paper has a Sunday circulation of about 268,000 and a daily circulation of about 160,000, according to its latest publisher’s statement.

It should be noted that Digital First Media has a number of community newspaper properties in the Los Angeles area that are for sale (under the MediaNews Group banner), including in Long Beach and Torrance. (I worked at the Santa Monica Outlook when it was under Copley ownership in the late ’80s. The paper was eventually shuttered by Copley in 1998.)

Here is the acquisition announcement:

CHICAGO, Ill. – May 7, 2015 – Tribune Publishing Company today announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire MLIM, LLC, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, as well as nine community weeklies and related digital properties in San Diego County. The purchase price is $85 million, which includes $73 million in cash and $12 million in Tribune Publishing common stock, plus the assumption of obligations for a single-employer pension plan. Tribune Publishing will not be taking possession of the seller’s real-estate assets. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015, subject to customary closing conditions.

UTSD-frontThe San Diego Union-Tribune has garnered four Pulitzer Prizes and has a 146-year history of providing daily news and information in San Diego, the second-largest city in California and the eighth largest in the United States. In conjunction with the acquisition and expansion, Tribune Publishing is forming the California News Group to oversee operations in Los Angeles and San Diego.

“The acquisition of San Diego Union-Tribune and its related community properties is expected to be accretive to Tribune Publishing and reflects our continuing drive to create value for our shareholders,” said Jack Griffin, CEO of Tribune Publishing. “This represents another step forward in our strategy to leverage our publishing infrastructure, resources and management teams.”

Introducing the California News Group
When the transaction closes, Austin Beutner will serve as Publisher & CEO of both the San Diego Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times and as Publisher & CEO of the newly formed California News Group.

San Diego Union-Tribune will retain editorial independence, providing an authentic voice that reflects the diversity of the state and the distinct values of our communities,” Beutner said. “I also know the Los Angeles Times will benefit with a closer connection to its older sibling down south.”

The newly formed California News Group includes properties throughout Southern California in addition to the flagship Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune.


The San Diego transaction will be the fourth acquisition completed by Tribune Publishing. Most recently, in October 2014, Tribune Publishing acquired 38 suburban-Chicago daily and weekly titles from Wrapports, LLC and integrated the properties into the Company’s Chicago Tribune Media Group.

Citigroup Global Markets is providing the debt financing commitment for the transaction.

Source: Tribune Publishing

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