Los Angeles Times owners sell San Diego Union-Tribune to publishing powerhouse

Jul 10, 2023, 5:45 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The owner of the Los Angeles Times has sold sister paper The San Diego Union-Tribune to MediaNews Group, which owns hundreds of papers around the country, the paper announced Monday.

The decision comes after the LA Times announced last month that it was cutting 74 jobs — 13% of its newsroom positions — to deal with financial difficulties.

The Union-Tribune, which covers the second-largest city in California, will now be owned by the same chain that owns a slew of Southern California newspapers. The parent company is Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund that has been buying up newspapers across the country and faced criticism for slashing budgets and cutting jobs.

The new owner is offering employee buyouts through next Monday and may lay people off, the Union-Tribune reported. Sharon Ryan, executive vice president of California for MediaNews Group, said in an email to employees that cutbacks will be needed to “offset the slowdown in revenues as economic headwinds continue to impact the media industry,” the paper reported. Efforts will be made to make cuts away from the newsroom, the email said.

The LA Times and Union-Tribune were purchased in 2018 by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and his family for $500 million from Chicago-based Tribune Publishing. The Union-Tribune sale was completed Monday, according to a memo to staff members from the California Times president and chief executive officer, Chris Argentieri.

“Our intention now is to focus on the ongoing work of transforming the L.A. Times into a self-sustaining institution,” Patrick Soon-Shiong said in a statement contained in Argentieri’s memo. “Our hometown of Los Angeles and the state of California – really, the West Coast – needs a strong, independent news organization. We believe in the L.A. Times and are committed to its future.”

In his memo, Argentieri said the owners “have made a good faith effort to rebuild and support both news organizations.”

“We hope that this change now will position both the L.A. Times and San Diego Union-Tribune to succeed,” he wrote.

Argentieri didn’t indicate the price of the sale and didn’t indicate whether there will be any employee cuts at the Union-Tribune, which has 220 employees.

According to its website, Denver-based MediaNews Group owns 68 daily and more than 300 weekly publications throughout the United States, including the Denver Post, Mercury News of San Jose, Orange County Register, St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Boston Herald, with a combined monthly audience of more than 60 million print and online viewers.

The company, through its Southern California News Group, also owns the Los Angeles Daily News, Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Daily Breeze, Press-Telegram, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and Redlands Daily Facts.

The news industry has been rocked in recent months by layoffs at news organizations including The Washington Post and National Public Radio. The decision for the LA Times to shed its sister paper came days after journalists at two dozen local newspapers across the U.S. walked off the job to demand an end to painful cost-cutting measures at Gannett, the country’s biggest newspaper chain.

Gannett said the cuts aimed to address declining revenue amid a downturn in ad sales and customer subscriptions.

The newspaper industry has struggled for years with such challenges as advertising has shifted from print to digital, and readers have abandoned local newspapers for online sources of information and entertainment.

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Los Angeles Times owners sell San Diego Union-Tribune to publishing powerhouse