Manchester Calls U-T Purchase of North County Times a ‘Logical Acquisition’

“We intend to super serve each and every market in which we enter,” owner said in a statement.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 11, 2011

The ownership of U-T San Diego announced Tuesday it will buy the North County Times for just under $12 million, paving the way for San Diego County’s only two major daily newspapers to be owned by the same company.

U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch said the company that owns the 144-year-old U-T has reached an agreement to buy the North County Times and its sister publication in southwest Riverside County, The Californian.

Hotelier and real estate developer Doug “Papa Doug” Manchester teamed up with Lynch to buy U-T San Diego from Beverly Hills-based private equity firm Platinum Equity late last year. The publication's name has been changed—it was previously The San Diego Union-Tribune—and a webcast television component has been added.

“We intend to super serve each and every market in which we enter,” Manchester said in a statement. “Since San Diego is our home, this is a logical acquisition.”

Manchester, speaking on Midday Edition on KPBS radio, said no final decisions have been made about the eventual form of the North County Times or the future of its employees.

“This has just been announced and we’ll not even take over the paper until October,” Manchester said. “We're in the process of analyzing all of that and, obviously, we want to in fact have the very best reporting for the North County area, so therefore, we will have the opportunity to retain the very best.”

Kent Davy,  editor of the North County Times,  told the station that no one there knows what will happen, so employees are concerned.

“Uncertainty always breeds fear,” Davy said, adding that “this is not the worst day in my life.”

Dean Nelson—a journalism professor at Point Loma Nazarene University­, another KPBS guest—called the purchase a smart business decision and signals a commitment to local journalism.

The question is how well that commitment is carried out, given a lack of competition, he said.

“When you have one owner of a very, very dominant voice, you do lose a little accountability for the kind of journalism that could be happening in a community,” Nelson said. “I hope that is not what happens, but it is conceivable.”

U-T San Diego under the reign of Manchester and Lynch has been criticized for a sharp tilt to the right side of the political spectrum on its editorial pages.

The North County Times and The Californian have been owned by publicly traded Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, since 2002. The editions have an
average daily circulation rate of 75,606 and 80,789 on Sunday for the six months ending March 31, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

North County Times editor Davy, speaking on KPBS’ Midday Edition, said: “I have no idea at this point” of his future with the paper.

Nelson, dean of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene, told show host Maureen Cavanaugh that the long-rumored sale was not a surprise but was still “astounding” when it happened.

Nelson raised the issue of declining local news competition.

Although U-T San Diego has a “committed, professional, awesome group of reporters,” Dean said, he expressed concern that they wouldn’t feel as compelled to dig deep for stories without the external competition the Times represented.

The North County Times reported a little after 9 a.m. Tuesday: “The North County Times has been sold to U-T San Diego, North County Times publisher Peter York said Tuesday. ... However, York said negotiations continued until late Monday before the deal was officially reached. North County Times staff in Escondido and Oceanside were informed of the deal at a Tuesday morning meeting.”

U-T San Diego added in its own announcement:“Lee Enterprises, Inc., has entered into an agreement to sell the North County Times newspaper and digital media operations based in Escondido to MLIM Holdings, Manchester Lynch Integrated Media, an affiliate of the owner of U-T San Diego, U-T TV and other media interests in Southern California, for $11.95 million. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to be completed in October.”

Original story from Sept. 10, 2012:

U-T San Diego publisher Doug Manchester is buying the North County Times and the daily Californian in southwest Riverside County, according to a report posted Monday in the San Diego Business Journal.

The Business Journal cited no sources, but Reo Carr, editor-in-chief of the weekly tabloid, told Patch: “We would not have published the story if we didn’t have solid confirmation that it was factual and correct. Our sources are confidential and did not want to be identified.”

But NBC San Diego reported Monday that U-T business writer Tanya Mannes had tweeted a statement from U-T CEO John Lynch: “At this time, U-T San Diego has NOT purchased The North County Times. U-T San Diego is continually evaluating investment opportunities to grow its media portfolio. Given the challenging economic conditions, The U-T does not comment on any transactions that are not complete.”

The North County Times was formed in 1995 after the Blade-Citizen of Oceanside bought the Times Advocate of Escondido. Today, the 75,000-circulation newspaper is the second-largest daily in San Diego after the U-T. It is owned by Lee Enterprises, a public company based on Davenport, IA. 

An early version of the Business Journal story said: “A news conference to announce the sale is scheduled for Tuesday.”

That reference was later removed from the Business Journal story, according to Jim Madaffer, publisher of several San Diego monthly newspapers, whose scoopsandiego.com site also noted the reported sale.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the names of the two newspapers that merged to form the North County Times.

kathleen lindemann September 12, 2012 at 07:25 PM
My husband and I have lived here for over twenty years and have found that The Coast News consistantly has the most complete coverage for Encinitas news and events. I agree with Laurie, we need this paper now more than ever.
Chris Kydd September 13, 2012 at 07:37 PM
LOCAL NEWS STILL EXISTS, AND COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS ARE THE FUTURE OF PRINT!!!! The Coast News will continue to offer excellent local news coverage of North County San Diego. Other community newspapers such as the La Jolla Village News, Peninsula Beacon, SD Uptown News, and other weeklies should seize this opportunity, and I predict that they will become increasingly more well-read in the wake of this buyout. Local weeklies have continued to thrive as the daily papers struggle. I suggest everyone pick up a copy of their local paper and take a fresh look. Thank you, Patch, for your contribution to community news.
M September 14, 2012 at 09:23 AM
Heads are about to roll. Lot of North County Times employees talking smack about their new bosses. Most outspoken sports guys have been John Maffei and Eric Bryer (sp?) Kent Davy trying to broker deal to keep him employed. Continuing to be a Lee yes man while aiming for Papa Doug and Johnny Lynch to not show him the door. Nobody in the building is excited about this merger.
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