San Diego Union-Tribune's Graceful Exit

Mar. 19, 2009 7:15 AM ETNYT, GHC, NEWS, MNIQQ, GCI, SNI, DALN1 Comment
Joel West profile picture
Joel West

Unlike the closing of the Rocky Mountain News, the online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the pending cutbacks (threatened online-only) at the San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday‘s story from San Diego has a (temporarily) happier ending.

The U-T (as it’s been known since even before the 1982 merger of the two Copley Press papers) announced its own sale to Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills private equity firm. The sale will mark the exit of the Copley family from owning the 140-year-old paper since 1928. As with other family-owned newspapers, the current owner (David Copley) has more interest in spending the riches, not running a business, and Copley has been dismembering the family empire for the past three years.

Terms were not announced. Rumors have it that the price was near $15 million, although Copley reportedly retained a share in the paper’s future success. The Voice of San Diego estimated that a metro daily should bring $500 per subscriber — which for the U-T would amount to $140 million.

Why did Platinum buy the paper? It doesn’t know how to run a newspaper, but it is working with David Black and his Black Press which owns the Akron Beacon Journal and bought the nearly-defunct Honolulu Star-Bulletin (a sickly paper in a two-newspaper town) for $10K in 2001.

One theory (advanced in the LA Times) is that the new owners are planning on consolidating the San Diego paper with other papers — since both the main Orange County and Los Angeles papers are for sale.

Another theory is that the new owners — like other private equity firms — will just be more ruthless about cutting costs. While local politicos hope for improved coverage, David Black promises “reorganization and severances.” Black has a reputation for

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Joel West profile picture
Dr. Joel West is professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Keck Graduate Institute, one of the seven Claremont Colleges in Los Angeles County. He was co-editor of the book Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm (Oxford, 2006). His consulting focuses on IP strategies and business models for software and Internet service companies. Before KGI, he spent nine years as a faculty member at the San Jose State College of Business, was president and co-founder of Palomar Software and also a columnist for MacWEEK. For more information, see Joel’s website ( and the home page for his blogs (

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