Bruce Kauffman 7:30 a.m., March 11
Copley Press Sells Posh Condos in Ballpark District to Owner David Copley. The Deal Raises Questions
Reader document sleuth Matt Potter has come up with information that should interest anxiety-ridden Union-Tribune employees. They had cocked their eyebrows in mid-2003 when the parent company, Copley Press, revealed that it had bought two luxury condos in the 11-story Metropolitan atop the Omni Hotel, developed by Padres majority owner John Moores. It seemed to be a favor to Moores; the paper had been a major cheerleader for the City's huge subsidy to the Padres owner, and Moores was anxious to sell the condos atop the hotel. The deal closed in April of 2004 for a price of about $3.8 million. The company said the suites would be combined and used for entertaining. Company owner David Copley had them decorated to suit his grandiose tastes. Now, reports Potter, Copley Press sold the suites to owner David Copley and his trust on Dec. 31 of last year. Price: $5.9 million. The deal raises a number of questions that Chief Operating Officer Hal Fuson would not address either by phone or email over a two-day span. How could Copley Press make a $2 million profit on a condo in the ballpark district? Values there have plunged. Was it a tax transaction? Does Copley Press, which put itself up for sale in mid-2008, have a buyer that doesn't want the suites? That would probably be true of almost any buyer -- certainly one that is publicly-held, or in the case of a group of individuals buying the paper in a private deal. Is Copley Press fattening up its balance sheet through this transaction? Did the suites' price go up $2 million because of the money David spent on furnishing the place? Did a qualified appraiser bless the $5.8 million transfer price? Does it jibe with comparable values in the luxury building? Does David own 100 percent of Copley Press, as most people believe?