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Doug Manchester to Purchase Union-Tribune

Platinum Equity announced Wednesday that it has signed a definitive agreement to sell The San Diego Union-Tribune to MLIM LLC, owned by San Diego entrepreneur Doug Manchester. San Diego media executive John Lynch serves as president and CEO of MLIM. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close no later than December 15. No further comment will be provided until the ownership transfer is complete.

“We are very proud of what we have accomplished in San Diego and are grateful to the community for embracing our stewardship of the Union-Tribune,” said Platinum Equity’s Louis Samson, whose team led the Union-Tribune acquisition in 2009. “We came here at a difficult time for the newspaper industry and helped the Union-Tribune successfully transform its operations and re-invent itself by attracting terrific people and investing in their ideas and their passion.”

“This is an honor and a privilege for John Lynch and the Manchester family. We have strong roots in the San Diego community and we are pleased to bring our local perspective and passion for this region to the Union-Tribune,” said Manchester. “Taking ownership of a 143-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization comes with great responsibility. We believe San Diego is the finest city in America and pledge to be strong advocates for the city’s interests and conscientious caretakers of the Union-Tribune and its legacy.”

Manchester added that his team plans to build on the U-T’s recent success.

“We look forward to building on the foundation that has been established by current management and ownership, serving the community and working towards a fully integrated digital and print news media platform,” said Manchester.

The sale is the culmination of a series of operational initiatives executed under Platinum’s ownership that have helped transform the Union-Tribune from a struggling traditional newspaper publisher into a modern and innovative multimedia platform.

“We assembled a talented management team, unified and expanded the U-T’s print and online offerings, modernized its production technology, and cemented its position as the leading local media company in the region,” added Samson. “Most importantly, we engaged the community and the Union-Tribune is a stronger, more vital enterprise today thanks to its connection with the people of San Diego.”

Platinum acquired the Union-Tribune from the Copley Press in May 2009 and quickly installed new management, including industry veteran Ed Moss as publisher and president, and Jeff Light, an experienced editor with a background in multimedia and interactive, as editor. A Platinum operations team also worked inside the business to support the early transition to new ownership and drive many of the longer-term transformation initiatives.

In August 2009 the Union-Tribune launched a new advertising offering that allowed micro-zoning for small business advertisers at lower, localized rates and an editorial effort to drive more local news coverage to targeted communities in San Diego. That effort was followed by the introduction of multiple new products targeted at specific categories to provide maximum response for local businesses.

In December 2009, a new pagination system was installed to significantly streamline the newspaper’s production process. In April 2010, the Union-Tribune launched its Daily Deal program as part of an effort to diversify its revenue base beyond traditional advertising and other sources. In August 2010, the Union-Tribune completed a total re-design of the newspaper and its online property

In November 2010, the Union-Tribune launched an unprecedented company-wide initiative with its Union-Tribune Holiday Food Drive. To continue its community outreach efforts, in September 2011, the company kicked off its Union-Tribune Volunteer for Education Campaign.

In April 2011, the Union-Tribune acquired the online lifestyle property, providing expanded reach with a younger demographic and strengthening the Daily Deal program. Earlier this month, the company announced the launch of Vida Latina San Diego, an entertainment magazine offering Spanish-language content to consumers and an additional channel for advertisers to reach the Hispanic demographic.

As a consequence of these and other efforts, the Union-Tribune has expanded its readership, improved its financial performance and is providing new and improved content for readers with more options for advertisers.

“We look forward to utilizing our ties to the community and local strength to expand upon the innovative methods already in place at the Union-Tribune, strengthening the organization’s mission to be San Diego’s media provider of choice,” said Manchester.

Platinum Equity is being advised by Evercore Partners on the sale of the Union-Tribune and MLIM is being advised by Roth Capital Partners.

SD METRO — Nov. 17, 2011

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