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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Developer Doug Manchester Buys Union-Tribune

Papa Doug’s‘ Got A Brand New Rag

The owner of The San Diego Union-Tribune announced Thursday it has sold the 143-year-old newspaper to MLIM, LLC, owned by real-estate magnate Doug Manchester.

The owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune announced Thursday it has sold the 143-year-old newspaper to MLIM, LLC, owned by conservative real-estate developer Doug Manchester.

The announcement ends weeks of speculation about Manchester's interest.

John Lynch is president of Manchester's MLIM company. He said said he and Manchester -- who prefers the moniker "Papa Doug" and refers to himself that way on his Web site -- would not comment extensively on the sale. Discussion of how the newspaper will be operated going forward will wait until the sale is finalized sometime next month.

Lynch has an extensive broadcasting background, including the operation and sale of a chain of radio stations based in San Diego and elsewhere.

In a brief interview, Lynch told KPBS: "We want to be cheerleaders for all that is good in San Diego."

U-T reporters and editors were told in a meeting this morning that Publisher Ed Moss and Editor Jeff Light will remain on the job for the foreseeable future. They were also told the newspaper is profitable and that more rounds of layoffs -- which have been frequent in recent years -- are not expected.

Beverly Hills-based Platinum Equity announced its sale of the 143-year-old newspaper this morning. Platinum, which bought The U-T in May 2009 from the Copley family, did not disclose how much Manchester will pay for the paper.

But estimates of the sale price today ran as high as $110 million dollars. The U-T has always been in private hands so details of its finances have always been left to speculation. U-T reporters interviewed said it's believed that Platinum Equity bought the newspaper for between $35 million and $50 million. If so, that's an impressive profit in a down economy ... one that came in part through extensive downsizing of staff.

One U-T reporter said after the paper's staff was told of the sale that his colleagues are happy that the paper has returned to local ownership. But they are nervous about the newspaper's editorial direction.

Don Bauder is a former U-T business columnist and was a longtime member of the Copley board of directors. He believes the printed newspaper will soon give way entirely to a Web-based version.

"I would not be surprised if The Union-Tribune is the first metro daily to go strictly online," said Bauder, who lives now in Colorado. "That would free up that building in Mission Valley."

The five-story Union-Tribune building, which has been the newspaper's home since its move from downtown in the 1970s, is half empty now. Attached to it is a large guilding that houses a printing plant which the newspaper bought for $42 million in cash more than a decade ago.

Bauder believes Manchester would develop the property if the editorial staff were moved elsewhere.

Manchester is a leading contributor to Republican causes.

"Did Manchester buy the paper so he can propagandize?" Bauder said. "I doubt that. I think his interest is in real estate."

Manchester has contributed to several Republican candidates over the years. He also gave $125,000 to the effort to ban gay marriage in California in 2008.

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