After eight months on the market, the San Diego Union-Tribune is being sold to a private equity firm. The rock bottom price is said to cover primarily the value of the real estate. Even so, it’s rare these days for a daily newspaper to find a buyer at any price.
Platinum Equity, a private equity firm that specializes in buying distressed businesses, agreed to buy the San Diego daily from Copley Press for an undisclosed price. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported that the price was less than $50 million, primarily for the associated real estate assets. The WSJ speculated that the newspaper was valued at around $1 billion just a few years ago, generating $100 million in cash flow in 2004 – but now close to break-even after the collapse of its classified advertising business.
Platinum Equity hasn’t named its management team for the newspaper, but said it will involve David H. Black, whose Black Press owns dozens of community newspapers, mostly in Western Canada, and in recent years acquired the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Akron Beacon Journal.
The sale marks the exit from the media business by privately owned Copley, founded by former Congressman Ira Clifton Copley in 1928 with the purchase of what were then two local newspapers, The San Diego Union and The Evening Tribune. They were combined in 1992. Copley grew into a chain over the years, but then sold off its other assets, including KCOP-TV Los Angeles