Wednesday, March 18, 2009 | The Copley family worked 81 years to build a newspaper dynasty in San Diego. In the end, though, their real-estate holdings — not their editorial product — may have helped close the deal to sell The San Diego Union-Tribune to Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills-based private equity firm.
With the sale announced Wednesday, Platinum gets not only San Diego’s most recognized media brand but its real estate, too.
Analysts say that may have been the most alluring reason to buy the Union-Tribune, a shrinking newspaper that has been fighting since 2006 to stave off an advertising revenue decline that preceded the ongoing recession.
Copley Press owns 13 acres in Mission Valley, where the newspaper’s headquarters sit south of the Fashion Valley mall, as well as another half-acre in La Jolla, according to county tax records. That space formerly housed the Copley Press headquarters.
Newspaper analysts said it was difficult to deduce how much the newspaper was worth, as the deal’s terms were not revealed. Citing unnamed sources, San Diego CityBeat pinned the cost somewhere close to $15 million and said Copley Press would retain a stake in the company and receive a share of revenues.
There’s little to compare the sale to. No major newspapers have sold since the economy collapsed. Two papers that have recently been up for sale, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have stopped printing for a lack of a buyer. The Seattle paper is continuing online with a smaller staff. Other papers in Austin, Texas and Miami have not found willing buyers.