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An outfit related to U-T San Diego publisher Doug Manchester has recently mortgaged the newspaper's Mission Valley headquarters to the tune of $27.5 million, raising questions among some over the staying power of the controversial real estate and hotel mogul in the wake of his major political setbacks in last week's local and national elections.

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According to a trust deed filed with the San Diego county Recorder's office on October 19, Mission Valley Holdings, LLC, a firm run by long-time Manchester executive Richard V. Gibbons, borrowed the money from the American National Insurance Company of Galveston, Texas.

On December 6 of last year, county transfer tax records show, Mission Valley Holdings purchased the U-T headquarters, at the northwest corner of the I-8 and State 163 freeway interchange, for $42.5 million.

That was the day after the U-T's previous owner, Platinum Equity of Beverly Hills, announced it had closed its deal to sell the newspaper to MLIM LLC, which the Platinum release said was owned by Manchester.

Details and terms of the deal, which involved at least two Manchester-related holding companies, have never been fully disclosed to the public.

The day after the U-T building's sale, December 7, the Manchester Financial Group, with Manchester listed as founder and chairman and Gibbons as vice-chairman and chief executive officer, made a $30 million loan to Mission Valley Holdings, secured by the headquarters, according to a trust deed recorded that day.

County records show that Manchester Financial Group's original $30 million mortgage lien was lifted October 24, five days after the American National Insurance company loan recorded.

Presumably October's $27.5 million loan from the Texas insurance company allows Manchester and his possible investors to liberate some of their cash from the newspaper. We left a message on Gibbons's voice mail this morning requesting further details, but haven't heard back.

The U-T's Mission Valley headquarters has frequently made news itself during the 11 months the Manchester-related entity has owned it. As reported here in May, the paper's John Lynch sent an email to a staffer for GOP city councilman Kevin Faulconer in which the newspaper executive appeared to threaten negative coverage in retaliation for a dispute the paper was having with the city over the legality of an enormous advertising banner on the building.

Also in May the city posted a notice of a permit application on the U-T building's front lawn, prompting Manchester to announce in the paper that he was seeking approval to build a complex of retail stores and residential condominium units on much of the site.

After this year's bruising San Diego mayoral battle, in which Democrat Bob Filner emerged triumphant over Manchester's candidate, GOP city councilman Carl DeMaio, some longtime city hall observers say the hotel and real estate mogul turned publisher might be wasting his time and should unload the property to somebody else.

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