John Mann 12:38 p.m., March 11
Wealthy Local Citizens Discuss Buying U-T, Combining It with KUSI-TV, Possibly Having 24-Hour News Program
A group of wealthy local citizens has approached the Union-Tribune about buying the newspaper, I have confirmed. Michael McKinnon, who along with two sons owns 82.5 percent of the station and its parent, McKinnon Broadcasting, is a major member of the group, I have learned, although he has not confirmed that. One idea would be to combine the news operations of KUSI and the U-T and perhaps have a 24-hour news operation. The U-T would be made more youth-oriented, with more pictures and graphics and less of a gray look. The management willl have to learn that deadlines don't work in the 21st century; news comes out around the clock. The U-T and KUSI could also combine advertising forces, giving advertisers a package of both print and TV, although that hasn't worked well in some other cases in the U.S. Apparently, raising the money for the purchase is not the question; the market has to set the price low enough to make it pay off for the local investors. Since there is virtually no market for metropolitan daily newspapers, the price could come down to their desired level. Much depends on the state of the U-T's profit and loss statement. Is the U-T running a negative cash flow? Or is it only mildly profitable? There is also the question of the La Jolla assets. Would local investors want them, and do they include the late Helen Copley's former home, Foxhill, and her art works? I could not get guidance on these questions. I still do not know if the company is cash flow positive or what a reasonable price might be. Bottom line: David Copley wants to get out of the business and the local nabobs want to keep the paper locally-owned. It is questionable at this point if there will be other serious out-of-town bidders, except at rock-bottom prices, at which point the locals would probably bid. It is my understanding that the group exploring this does not believe there have to be more layoffs, although some in management would be considered.