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L.A. Times Pays $85 Million to Buy San Diego Union-Tribune

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Los Angeles Times owner Tribune Publishing announced Thursday that it has agreed to purchase one of the most well established papers in Southern California, the San Diego Union-Tribune, for $85 million.

In a letter to readers, California News Group Publisher and CEO Austin Beutner wrote, “I am pleased to announce that Tribune Publishing Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, has agreed to acquire The U-T San Diego. At the close of the transaction, I will serve as publisher of the U-T, which will join the Los Angeles Times as the flagship publications of a newly formed California News Group.”

Tribune Publishing already owns the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and seven other daily papers.

The Times adds 175 U-T journalists to the 500 that serve the Times now. Each team will remain separate entities, but will share resources including stories, news and video at times.

Any potential layoffs due to the consolidation are not yet being determined just yet.

The U-T pointed out that newspaper ad trends had declined nationwide, with $49.44 billion in total U.S. ad revenue in 2005 and a mere $22.31 billion in 2012. Paper combinations have been one method of making up sharp revenue declines.

Buettner, according to the U-T, hopes to find a revenue lift with a targeted “communities of interest” strategy. It’s an approach reportedly akin to that used by Politico, targeting “specific groups of readers that are valued by advertisers, who pay higher rates for such access.”

Doug Manchester purchased the U-T for $110 million in 2011, paying another $5 million for San Diego’s North County Times. He stands to come out ahead in this deal to the tune of around $13 million. In addition to the $85 million that the Times is paying in cash and Tribune Publishing common stock, Manchester will keep $43.6 million in real estate from the U-T.

The Times was first published in 1881. The U-T resulted from a combination of the San Diego Union and the Tribune in 1992 and claims the status of the oldest newspaper in southern California. The San Diego Union dates back to 1868, and the Evening Tribune to 1895.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana


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