Mar 20, 2009

I love you for your real estate*

What will the sale of the San Diego Union-Tribune to Platinum Equity mean for the newspaper? Ken Doctor, who writes at Content Bridges, analyzes the deal over at PaidContent. After surveying what Platinum Equity partner David Black has done at the Akron Beacon-Journal, and considering what Platinum really values in the deal, Doctor's prognosis is unsurprising: the new owners will cut.

Doctor writes:
Judging from Akron, we can intuit that the new private-equity owners and David Black will look first to “efficiencies.” That means less headcount and a concentration on lower-paid, less-experienced reporting staff. Morale—never a newspaper strong suit—will take another hit.


The Union-Tribune will get smaller and much more locally focused. And that real estate under its building (and the Union-Tribune’s other San Diego real-estate holdings, which are part of the deal)—that is the real motivator for the purchase. Consider that the Blethen Maine Papers (owned by the Seattle Times publisher) are about to be auctioned off for the value of the related real estate – not that of the papers. This is a big trend worth watching. Commercial real estate has seized up in the recession and the credit crunch. But that’s cyclical. It will come back—and far faster than metro-newspaper values – and therein may lie the next chapter in newspaper ownership.
*Update: Alan Mutter agrees.

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