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PE Firm Platinum Equity To Buy San Diego Union-Tribune

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
Some nine months after hiring an investment banker to explore "strategic options," The Copley Press is selling the The San Diego Union-Tribune and its pioneering site to private equity firm Platinum Equity. The price isn't being disclosed; the deal, expected to close next quarter, will end an 81-year newspaper dynasty in San Diego.

It looks like this would be the first media company in Platinum's portfolio; the Beverly Hills firm owns several communications equipment and services companies, including Covad Communications, and has acquired more than 100 companies since its 1997 founding.

Copley EVP Harold Fuson, Jr. told the Union-Tribune in a written statement: "This is a vital business with a long tradition of public service and a pre-eminent position in one of America's finest media markets. ... At this important juncture, we believe that Platinum Equity is the right partner for the Union-Tribune, its employees and the San Diego community." Copley sold its other dailies in 2007 with the goal of keeping the Union-Tribune separate but the real estate crisis that hit California was barely a glimmer then.

As the U-T notes, Platinum specializes in acquiring businesses facing "complex operational challenges." Platinum principal Louis Sanson told the paper, also via written statement, that the firm has "a long history of creating value by helping established companies navigate difficult market transitions." The Platinum team for the acquisition includes David H. Black, as in Canadian chain Black Press, but no details so far about what that means. It could be a mix of Platinum's money and Black's newspaper management; Black was a prospective bidder. Others known to have explored the idea include the Tribune Co., which probably had to shelve any such notions when it filed for bankruptcy, MediaNews, not in the best position for spending right now, and perennial newspaper publisher wannabe Ron Burkle. 

By Staci D. Kramer