Thursday, March 19, 2009

Copley Press Inc., Platinum Equity Agree to San Diego Union-Tribune Purchase Plan

The Copley Press Inc. and Platinum Equity announced today that they have signed a definitive agreement under which an affiliate of Platinum will acquire the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The transaction is expected to be completed during the second quarter.

Asked at a staff meeting Wednesday whether the newspaper was profitable, Gene Bell, the newspaper's chief executive, said he didn't want to answer, then, after a pause, "It depends on the week." Like most newspapers in the past year, the Union-Tribune had been losing money.

Harold W. Fuson, Jr., executive vice president for Copley, said that Platinum Equity emerged from that process as the bidder best equipped to ensure that the Union-Tribune – which last changed owners in 1928 – maintains its position as one of San Diego’s leading community institutions.

“This is a vital business with a long tradition of public service and a preeminent position in one of America’s finest media markets,” Fuson said. “At this important juncture, we believe that Platinum Equity is the right partner for the Union-Tribune, its employees and the San Diego community.”

Platinum is a private equity firm that specializes in acquiring businesses facing complex operational challenges in declining or transitioning markets. Louis Samson, the Platinum Equity principal leading the acquisition, called the Union-Tribune “a good fit for Platinum” and its operations-focused approach.

“We have a long history of creating value by helping established companies navigate difficult market transitions,” Samson said. “The Union-Tribune is more than a business, it’s an institution in San Diego. But it faces enormous challenge in a period of tremendous upheaval for the newspaper industry. We will bring a strong operational focus that helps ensure the Union-Tribune not only survives in this market, but thrives.”

The Platinum team includes David H. Black, whose holdings include more than 150 newspapers and websites in the United States and Canada.

“The Union-Tribune is a premier media property in an outstanding market,” Black said. “We are extremely excited about partnering with the management team and dedicated employees of the Union-Tribune, and building this franchise for the future.”

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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