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Almost 60 years ago, Tom Joubran immigrated to the United States from the town of Nazareth, once part of Palestine, and began a new life in the suburbs of Flint, Michigan. A Maronite Christian, he fled his home, the Flint Journal would later recount, after being kidnapped and held for several days by marauding Jews, who then traded him and 5 other Arabs for the freedom of 15 Jews.

“It was 1947,” Joubran recalled in a telephone interview last week from his home near Flint. “They just kidnapped me, and they put me underground and asked me questions about whether I was shooting, and I said, ‘No, I’m a peaceful man.’

“I worked for a Jewish guy, an Iraqi Jewish guy. He told them to stop it, don’t take me away, but at that time there was no Israel — it was under the British government — and they kidnapped me, and they kidnapped 6 of us, actually. The Palestinians kidnapped 15 Jews, and we were exchanged for them, then they let us go.

“I came to the United States in 1950. I had my name in the American embassy for 13 years to come to America,” Joubran said. “I kissed the ground in New York when I arrived.”

Joubran, now 84 years old, has led a prosperous, if controversial life. He has witnessed others in his family achieve success American style, often with his help. His nephew Tewfiq Gores, now known as Tom, is a billionaire who runs Platinum Equity, the partnership that has bought the San Diego Union-Tribune from the Copley Press, a San Diego institution for over 80 years.

Tom Joubran: Uncle and mentor to brothers Tom, Alec, and Sam Gores.

Tom Joubran: Uncle and mentor to brothers Tom, Alec, and Sam Gores.

The purchase has caused many to wonder what the new owners will do with the once-mighty, now down-at-the-heels newspaper, the nation’s 25th largest by circulation. Will Gores (pronounced GOR-is) invest the millions of dollars many observers believe are necessary to revive circulation and advertising revenue, currently in a seeming death spiral?

Or will he fire most of the U-T employees, load the company with debt, strip its substantial Mission Valley real estate assets, and eventually shut it down?

And if he keeps the U-T alive, will Gores change the paper’s mainstream Republican editorial slant regarding Middle East policy, as exemplified by an editorial the paper ran on December 30 of last year? Israeli air strikes against the Palestinians in Gaza represented “A justified attack,” the U-T opined. “It’s worth remembering, too, that Hamas, not Israel, broke a negotiated six-month cease-fire by lobbing rockets into Israeli towns in order to provoke retaliation, thereby helping its cause in the international arena and in Gaza.”

Though said by Forbes magazine to be one of the world’s richest people at number 334 on its March 2009 billionaires list, Gores, 44 years old and a resident of Beverly Hills, has maintained a low public profile as he accumulated his wealth. Little is known about his personal views and history.

Tom Gores: Forty-four-year-old billionaire head of Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills–based buyout firm that is the new owner of the Union-Tribune.

WireImage/Getty Images

Tom Gores: Forty-four-year-old billionaire head of Platinum Equity, a Beverly Hills–based buyout firm that is the new owner of the Union-Tribune.

In a March 19 story announcing its takeover by Platinum Equity, the Union-Tribune reported that Gores had “immigrated to America with his Greek family when he was 5 and eventually became a U.S. citizen.” But there is more to the story of Tom Gores and his large, extended family.

He was mentored through childhood, adolescence, and college by Tom Joubran, who became a grocer after arriving in this country and battled years of ethnic bias and criminal charges that he attributes to jealousy and discrimination because he came from the Middle East.

It was Joubran who sponsored the 1969 immigration of the Gores family, including his sister Marie, from Nazareth to Flint, where many members of the Joubran family live.

“I’m so glad I brought them in here,” Joubran said last week. “I provided them a house to live. They worked for me, and I paid them money.”

Tom Gores “was the carry-out boy in my grocery store and was in the produce department,” Joubran told the Flint Journal in 2007. “The apron he wore was bigger than him. He was very small for his age.… But look at him today. I’m so proud of him and all of his brothers and sisters. They were all dynamic kids. I knew they were going to be something from the day they came in.”

Dan Shriner, a former reporter for the Flint Journal, recalls that photos of the Gores brothers lined the walls of Joubran’s office, including one of Tom’s older brother Alec standing with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Joubran spoke with pride of how he had mentored the brothers in the promised land of America.

“I do know that he’s extremely proud of them,” says Shriner. “They’re in touch often. They really stay in touch. I don’t know about what, but they are in touch with great regularity.”

For some in the family who immigrated from Nazareth to America to begin a new life free of the ethnic and religious strife in perpetually war-torn Israel, memories of life under Israeli rule are hard to erase.

Tom Gores’s cousin, Hala Gores, came to the United States in the 1970s when she was ten years old. She later recounted that she had been stripped-searched before being allowed to leave Israel.

Hala Gores: Cousin to Tom Gores, this Portland lawyer is an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause.

Jenna Biggs

Hala Gores: Cousin to Tom Gores, this Portland lawyer is an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause.

“[An Israeli official] took off my top. I helped to take off my pants and didn’t really say much of anything. And she had me turn around. She felt my legs; my behind. So there I was as a ten-year-old, in this little room, just about completely naked, and knew that I could not challenge what was happening and I just complied. It just feels, sitting here as an adult, that as a child I really shouldn’t have had to go through that.”

Now an attorney who lives and practices in Portland, Oregon, she is an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause. She belongs to the Portland-based Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and is president of the Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon.

In January of this year, Hala Gores helped lead a demonstration in downtown Portland against Israel’s occupation of Gaza. “Our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza are crying for the world to demand an end to the massacre and an end to Israel’s war crimes,” she said in a news release posted on the Palestinian Human Rights website prior to the event. “Our flags and our signs will send the message that all Palestinians are under attack; we are calling on Oregon’s Senators and Congressmen to demand an immediate end to the bloodshed.”

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 May 13, 2009 @ 10:53 p.m.

I bet the paper will post huge profits next year and then sold to the highest bidder.

By Johnny

I'll take that action with a C-note.

And let me know if you want to raise that bet.

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monaghan May 13, 2009 @ 8:36 p.m.

Wow. The Union-Tribune as a Palestinian mouthpiece. Will editorial page editor Bob Kittle replace his bow tie with a chequered scarf as he goes about his chores? The mind races to think about the possibilities....What an amazing story about the new owners of America's Finest City's only newspaper. Nice job, Matt Potter.

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Ponzi May 13, 2009 @ 8:59 p.m.

They say there is a crime behind every fortune. These dudes didn't make billions without one. This story has a big gap between the time they worked in a little hometown market making nothing to bidding on billion dollar high tech companies. Exactly how did they get from Point A to Point B?

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Johnny May 13, 2009 @ 9:55 p.m.

I think you all have it wrong this is a total business transaction. Does anyone know the terms of the sale? How much did they buy the paper for? I don't think Mr. Gores has a political agenda. If you look at past Gores transactions the companies he has purchased have been made profitable and then sold for huge profits. I bet the paper will post huge profits next year and then sold to the highest bidder.

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Ponzi May 14, 2009 @ 11:18 a.m.

The partnership includes an operator of The Honolulu Advertiser, a paper in Akron, Ohio and several papers in British Columbia. So they may be trying to build a news paper empire afterall. Only time will tell. At least the Copley era is over.

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Ponzi May 14, 2009 @ 2:30 p.m.

They can turn the newspaper around and increase ad revenue when...

The can compete with craigslist; free ads.

When they can get people paying to advertise yards sales and other items in their classified.

When people stop using Monster.com and other websites to look for jobs. When people stop using Autotrader and other sources to shop for cars. When people stop using all the online resources to find rentals and homes for sale.

The classifieds were a gold mine and it's pretty much gone. As the circulation declines, the ad rate they can get for display ads falls also.

Basically when they can offer free ads and make money. So that is going to be some magic to perform. They have their work cut out for them.

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SurfPuppy619 May 14, 2009 @ 5:17 p.m.

When they can get people paying to advertise yards sales and other items in their classified.

They really raped people on the classified advertising.

I had to use it to sell some Southwest Airline vouchers and it was like $25-$30 for a three line ad.

Man, just thinking about that rip oiff still gets me upset-I'm glad the classifieds are history. One less scam from Big Business.

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violadace May 15, 2009 @ 2:34 p.m.

I would LOVE to subscribe to a hometown paper. There's so much I miss about the city by not having a local news source. Voiceofsandiego.com is too amateurish and "Let's Make a Paper!" gee-whiz. The READER is only big story. I refused to support the U-T because it had been a prime player in San Diego's stupidity and corruption for the last 80 years. Maybe now the Copleys are gone, I'll hafta subscribe to the new U-T. . .

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Flintexpats May 17, 2009 @ 10:29 a.m.

Tom Joubran's Mikatam was a Flint legend for a lot of reasons. Here's a link to a post on Flint Expatriates about the bar. The comment section reveals a lot about the Joubrans, Flint, and this locally famous bar:

http://www.flintexpats.com/2009/01/mikatam.html

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PeterCavanaugh May 31, 2009 @ 3:51 p.m.

Matt Potter's May 13th feature article on Tom Joubran and his Gores nephews was quite encompassing, understandably only scratching the surface in recounting highlights in the life of a Great American. Observing several subsequent comments on much of the information being "hearsay", might I offer the following "eyewitness" testimony from "Local DJ", published in 2002 and now optioned as a film project by MIchael Moore and Kathleen Glynn?

From "Local DJ"--Page 298

“The Mikatam” in Genesee was owned and operated by Tom Joubran, a Palestinian immigrant and self-made millionaire. Tom couldn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t getting rich in America. He also was amazed that no one else could seize opportunities as he did and profit accordingly. Tom would say, "Look at me! I rode a goat to the boat!" The truth was that few people could work twenty hours-a-day with the energy and drive that Tom considered a matter of normal routine. Sleep? What’s that??

Tom owned laundromats, apartment buildings, pizza parlors, grocery stores and lots else. His first love, however, was show business. He proved to be a gracious host and extraordinary client. He brought a number of relatives over from the old country and there were a few confusions from time to time. I was visiting Tom one night at "The Mighty Mikatam" when we both noticed everyone being turned away from the door by a young nephew who had been instructed to check for I.D.s. He was demanding passports."

End of excerpt.

With best wishes,

Peter Cavanaugh Oakhurst, California WildWednesday.com

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happilyretired May 31, 2009 @ 7:14 p.m.

I worked with Alec at Executive Business Systems in the 80's and it turned out to be a fabulous experience. All of us who worked with him knew he was special and would be a very rich man someday. He was a very smart, ambitious, fair and generous business owner. Alec had about 25 employees when I started and about 125+ when Contel purchased his business. His ego was not out of control and he could be trusted. He worked very hard and was quite inventive. He really deserves his success and I wish him the best. He had my respect then and I respect him today. I would like to know how what has happened to Marie, Samira, Susie and Linda.

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Neal April 15, 2011 @ 8:52 a.m.

When Platinum Equity purchased the fastening division from Textron, Mr. Gores’ senior leadership guys approved a plan that effectively got rid of the (2) only Iraqi Americans who worked so hard for many years.

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