Good News: 'San Diego Union-Tribune' Sold

San Diego Union TribuneDefying naysayers and the credit crunch, the San Diego Union-Tribune has finally been sold by its owner, the Copley Press, with its purchase by private-equity firm Platinum Equity. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The San Diego Union-Tribune was first put up for sale in July 2008, but seemed destined to linger on the auction block as investors grew leery of the newspaper industry, beset by revenue declines in every major ad category.

The implosion of global credit markets in September appeared to seal its fate, as other big newspaper auctions have failed. McClatchy has been trying to sell the Miami Herald for months, and earlier this week, Hearst stopped publication of the print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after no buyers stepped forward. Hearst is also threatening to close the San Francisco Chronicle if it doesn't find a buyer by mid-April.

But it appears that the Union-Tribune beat the odds. According to the newspaper, which reported its own sale on Wednesday, Platinum Equity has a reputation for picking up and turning around distressed businesses in "declining or transitioning markets." The paper quoted Louis Samson, a principal with Platinum Equity, who acknowledged that the paper "faces enormous challenge in a period of tremendous upheaval for the newspaper industry," but also promised to "bring a strong operational focus that helps ensure the Union-Tribune not only survives in this market, but thrives."

One of its team members is David H. Black, who owns community papers in Canada and more recently acquired the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Akron Beacon Journal.

Platinum certainly has its work cut out for it, given substantial declines in advertising and circulation at the Southern California paper. Ad revenue is down 40% since 2006, while average Sunday circulation fell 5%--from 359,364 to 342,384 between the second half of 2007 and the second half of 2008, per the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Although Platinum made no mention of layoffs, any turnaround plan will probably have to include some job cuts, which have recently been endemic in the newspaper industry.

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