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Chargers departure could hit U-T where it hurts

Paper's commercial viability threatened by team's relocation to L.A.?

Ever since the Chargers arrived here from Los Angeles in 1961, the football team has had a godfather in what used to be known as the Union-Tribune, and before that the morning Union and the Evening Tribune.

Jack Murphy statue (outside Qualcomm Stadium)
Helen Copley

Owned by Jim Copley, the papers heavily promoted construction of San Diego Stadium in Mission Valley, the name of which was subsequently changed to Jack Murphy Stadium, in honor of the Union’s sports writer’s role in the development.

When it later became necessary for the city to sell the stadium's naming rights to raise cash for an expansion demanded by the team, Copley's widow Helen quickly signaled support for replacing the dead scribe's name with that of mobile phone giant Qualcomm.

Herb Klein
Jack Kemp
Malin Burnham

Political alliances between the Chargers and Jim Copley, one of the first to befriend Dick Nixon's ill-starred career, also blossomed. Star quarterback Jack Kemp was virtually adopted by Union editor and Nixon PR man Herb Klein and molded into a Republican New York congressman from Buffalo.

This week the game changed.

Rendering of Raiders' and Chargers' shared home
Irwin Jacobs

News that the team is partnering with the Oakland Raiders on an L.A. stadium in case San Diego taxpayers don't come up with enough scratch for one here could spell the beginning of the end for the U-T, already struggling under the ownership of voluble real estate mogul Douglas Manchester.

Exactly how much Chargers coverage and related advertising contribute to the U-T’s bottom line is a tightly held secret, but is believed by some to be one of the operation's last dependable streams of cash.

Under Manchester and his once second-in-command John Lynch, a former NFL player, the paper has loaded up on Chargers news and promotion. Consequently, readership and revenue could take a significant hit if the team leaves town.

Already, the U-T’s chief operating officer Mike Hodges has departed to run an internet marketing company, leaving the paper’s management in the hands of editor Jeff Light.

And sharks are circling in the form of Malin Burnham and his yet-to-be-identified backers, who seek to obtain the paper from Manchester and operate it through a non-profit corporation.

One in particular who may have an interest in the fate of the once-proud GOP journal is Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, the La Jolla Democratic billionaire who is rooting for Hillary Clinton in next year's presidential derby. He already has helped finance San Diego State University's public broadcasting operation and the non-profit Voice of San Diego news and opinion website.

A change of editorial posture by the paper, or its electronic successor under non-profit control, could shake up local politics in a post-Chargers era.

Like Burnham a supporter of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher for mayor in 2013, Jacobs is helping to stage what is billed as the first annual fundraiser for the California Young Democrats of the San Diego Region, featuring a galaxy of Democratic office holders and putative candidates.

According to an emailed invitation, politically ambitious San Diego school-district trustee Kevin Beiser heads the March 5 event at Hillcrest’s Bamboo Lounge. In addition to Jacobs, listed sponsors include Fletcher, city-council hopeful Barbara Bry, and Assembly speaker Toni Atkins.

Hosts include former council candidate Sarah Boot, port commissioner Rafael Castellanos, possible Bry council rival Joe LaCava, and Nancy Chase, a onetime top aide to Roger Hedgecock.

The fallen Republican mayor was a chief U-T adversary when the operation was owned by Helen Copley, who favored his rival and her close friend Maureen O'Connor.

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Ever since the Chargers arrived here from Los Angeles in 1961, the football team has had a godfather in what used to be known as the Union-Tribune, and before that the morning Union and the Evening Tribune.

Jack Murphy statue (outside Qualcomm Stadium)
Helen Copley

Owned by Jim Copley, the papers heavily promoted construction of San Diego Stadium in Mission Valley, the name of which was subsequently changed to Jack Murphy Stadium, in honor of the Union’s sports writer’s role in the development.

When it later became necessary for the city to sell the stadium's naming rights to raise cash for an expansion demanded by the team, Copley's widow Helen quickly signaled support for replacing the dead scribe's name with that of mobile phone giant Qualcomm.

Herb Klein
Jack Kemp
Malin Burnham

Political alliances between the Chargers and Jim Copley, one of the first to befriend Dick Nixon's ill-starred career, also blossomed. Star quarterback Jack Kemp was virtually adopted by Union editor and Nixon PR man Herb Klein and molded into a Republican New York congressman from Buffalo.

This week the game changed.

Rendering of Raiders' and Chargers' shared home
Irwin Jacobs

News that the team is partnering with the Oakland Raiders on an L.A. stadium in case San Diego taxpayers don't come up with enough scratch for one here could spell the beginning of the end for the U-T, already struggling under the ownership of voluble real estate mogul Douglas Manchester.

Exactly how much Chargers coverage and related advertising contribute to the U-T’s bottom line is a tightly held secret, but is believed by some to be one of the operation's last dependable streams of cash.

Under Manchester and his once second-in-command John Lynch, a former NFL player, the paper has loaded up on Chargers news and promotion. Consequently, readership and revenue could take a significant hit if the team leaves town.

Already, the U-T’s chief operating officer Mike Hodges has departed to run an internet marketing company, leaving the paper’s management in the hands of editor Jeff Light.

And sharks are circling in the form of Malin Burnham and his yet-to-be-identified backers, who seek to obtain the paper from Manchester and operate it through a non-profit corporation.

One in particular who may have an interest in the fate of the once-proud GOP journal is Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, the La Jolla Democratic billionaire who is rooting for Hillary Clinton in next year's presidential derby. He already has helped finance San Diego State University's public broadcasting operation and the non-profit Voice of San Diego news and opinion website.

A change of editorial posture by the paper, or its electronic successor under non-profit control, could shake up local politics in a post-Chargers era.

Like Burnham a supporter of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher for mayor in 2013, Jacobs is helping to stage what is billed as the first annual fundraiser for the California Young Democrats of the San Diego Region, featuring a galaxy of Democratic office holders and putative candidates.

According to an emailed invitation, politically ambitious San Diego school-district trustee Kevin Beiser heads the March 5 event at Hillcrest’s Bamboo Lounge. In addition to Jacobs, listed sponsors include Fletcher, city-council hopeful Barbara Bry, and Assembly speaker Toni Atkins.

Hosts include former council candidate Sarah Boot, port commissioner Rafael Castellanos, possible Bry council rival Joe LaCava, and Nancy Chase, a onetime top aide to Roger Hedgecock.

The fallen Republican mayor was a chief U-T adversary when the operation was owned by Helen Copley, who favored his rival and her close friend Maureen O'Connor.

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Comments
26

In 1965, the ballot proposal for bonds to build San Diego Stadium was very successful. Every TV station, radio station, and the U-T could sing the praises of a new stadium today and there was no way it would have passed, and that was even before last night's announcement by the Chargers of an agreement with the Raiders to build a new stadium in Carson. I know some people think otherwise, but IMO, I don't think a new stadium here had a snowball's chance in hell of passing, and that chance was getting less and less each day.

Feb. 20, 2015

I walked by Bamboo Lounge yesterday. It's under new management, and has changed its name to T-Lounge.

Feb. 20, 2015

I am almost wondering whether this 'going to Carson' is a strategic rouse? Fabiani is the modern day Machiavelli, or could serve as chief negotiator for ISIS. Get the villagers all worked up in San Diego, and they rally with "damn-it, we're not losing our beloved Chargers!!!" Just a thought. Now Carson is apparently offering the Chargers something without the friction and public funding, along with law$uits delaying so-called "progress." I am sure San Diego's mayor and city council have egg yoke dripping from their faces today, because that Fabiani really is clever at warfare maneuvering.

Feb. 20, 2015

My guess is that Fabiani has read "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu. It's all about tactical advantages.

Feb. 20, 2015

Suddenly the knife at the Mayor's throat got some passion stirring. This morning on KUSI he was ready to go to war. Hmmmffffff!! Those poor schleps in Carson don't realize that they're mere pawns in this old game that Fabiani wins either way it goes. They're going to waste so much money on signature drives and such in Carson and guess what, they'll end up staying in San Diego as the Raiders stay in Oakland due to some smoke and mirrors filled backroom deal. Count on it.

Feb. 20, 2015

Yup and I bet the stupid political chumps and even dumber taxpayers of San Diego will succumb to this tactic and build a new stadium downtown and the taxpayers will be stuck with Qualcomm which will cost millions to maintain or tear down and nothing can be done with the property. San Diego has always thought small and have learned nothing from the "too small" convention center, the Petco rip off and now they will rush headlong into a new stadium. LMAO

Feb. 21, 2015

We won't know if this is for real until it actually happens. It could be a con game by both teams to get local concessions, or maybe it is for real. One small detail is that both of these teams are AFC teams, and Don Bauder has speculated that LA would want one team from each conference. I've long puzzled that the largest city in the US west has had no NFL team(s) for so many years. That was not going to stay that way, and it won't, regardless of who comes, who builds, and who owns.

As to the Mill, with its shrunken circulation today, it is hard to know about the impact of a pro sports team leaving town. Years ago, many male "readers" looked only at the sports section, but were faithful in doing that. Now it isn't clear, especially with all the sports talk on radio and all the TV coverage (blather) of the NFL, if Chargermania is still helping the paper. For sure, it be felt, in that some of the advertisers are still trying to get male readers and to tie themselves to the fans with emotional appeals.

Feb. 20, 2015

Judging from the complete state of panic the XTRA 1360 AM sports radio guys were in it seems people are taking the Chargers' Carson plans very seriously.

Feb. 20, 2015

Of course they are in panic mode--they broadcast the games.

Feb. 20, 2015

Yeah I would think if the Chargers bolt (bad pun intended) then either 1360 or 1090 (or both) would shut down.

Feb. 21, 2015

A dizzying array of fantastic possibilities here -- Chargers teaming up with !Raiders! to build a stadium in some god-forsaken area of LA County! Speculation about GOP Big Daddy Doug Manchester selling the daily paper to Malin "Gumby" Burnham in cahoots with Voice of San Diego angel and KPBS newsroom donor Big Dog Dem Irwin Jacobs! A miraculous resurrection of serial affiliator Rep/Ind/Dem Nathan Fletcher among other lights of the local Democratic Party at a big political fundraiser being run by Irwin Jacobs! Jacobs, by the way, is thought to have found jobs for Fletcher at both Qualcomm and "teaching" at UCSD. Pretty heady stuff, marvelous and enjoyable. Reader readers are grateful.

Feb. 20, 2015

It would be interesting to see how the Chargers/Raiders kept this under wraps for so long. Wouldn't there be public records of the land sale? I would have thought someone in the media or in the mayors office would have noticed.

Feb. 21, 2015

Reportedly, the Chargers don't own the Carson land, but will allegedly control the right to develop it. Maybe the maneuvering was done in part to keep the Spanos and Chargers names out of the public records. Or maybe the Chargers' "right to develop" the land is just a hedge/bluff that exists only as long as the stadium mirage is useful, and after that the true owner can go ahead and build a shopping center on the property.

Feb. 21, 2015

So it remains to be seen if this is a bluff. I have to imagine the Chargers/Raiders must have gone to a lot of effort to hide all the behind-the-scenes agreements from the public/press and from the cities of San Diego and Oakland.

Feb. 23, 2015

First, there 's the pawns in LA, the pro football fans who have been without a home team for two decades. Then there are the Pawns in San Diego who are expected to foot the bill for a new downtown stadium. Then,there are the rooks and bishops which include the local newspaper and real estate moguls, and finally the Black Queen herself, the NFL. This is a medieval board game that has become more boring and trite each day, and it sure ain't football. Calculate how much of your life you get back when you turn off the Tube.

Feb. 21, 2015

Los Angeles is the second only to Mexico City in population of Mexicans. LA doesn’t need an American football stadium, it would be more reasonable to build a soccer stadium.

However, if the Chargers moving to LA will put Manchester's U-T out of business, I'm all for it.

Feb. 21, 2015

We might observe that Logan Jenkins, the columnist in the Mill (aka UT) came out a few days ago with the radical proposal that the stadium now known as Qualcomm be refurbished and renovated as an alternative to a new stadium. Was he allowed to speak heresy, or does someone at the rag know that a new facility is out of the question? If you read the Jenkins column, he treads lightly (as he often has to do) on the matter, but gets the points across. Oh, and he had a much higher price tag than previous proposals to redo the current facility. But it still makes very good sense. Maybe someone at the top of the paper's hierarchy knows that keeping the Chargers in town is good for them. And they may also know that talk of another stadium leads nowhere. So, they had their writer make a common-sense proposal. Ya' nevah know.

Feb. 21, 2015

Good points. One of my memories about my time working in aerospace for McDonnell-Douglas and General Dynamics, was the ritual I saw daily at the newspaper stands at the entrance to the plants. A man would buy the paper from the box (if they were not already all stacked up on top - out of the box- from the first purchase), he would pull the sports page out and throw the rest of the paper into the trash. Indeed, with the thin offering of news the U-T prints these days, the sports page is a legacy that continues to be the cornerstone of newstand and subscription sales.

Feb. 21, 2015

Los Angeles already has a fine soccer stadium -- and it's in Carson.

http://www.stubhubcenter.com/about/venues/soccer-stadium

Feb. 21, 2015

Today, Sunday, Feb. 22, the Mill has the Charger story on top of the front page, again. That did not surprise me--in fact, had it not been the biggest story appearing today, I would have been dumbfounded. But we cannot tell if the bosses at the paper think it is big news, or it they think the readers expect massive attention. We need to remember that during the NFL season, the Charger game gets on the front page at least twice a week, usually on Sunday when the game is played, and then the day after with the rousing good or bad news of the outcome. Then there is all the attention paid to certain players, such as Junior Seau. So, for that paper, the "Bolts" are Big Time Stuff, first, last, and always.

It might be worth noting that this news wasn't a big deal in the LA Times. On their website, it wasn't a top local story on the day of the announcement and the day after. The attitude seemed to be, "We will get all excited when it happens, but for now, it's just another thing that might happen or might not." And yet, it's LA that will get two pro teams out of the deal (if/when it goes through.) And maybe the LAT has called it right in that it's just another story of someone's pie-in-the-sky plan.

Feb. 22, 2015

With LA being the entertainment capital, the Times and other media have seen every ambitious plan [remember DreamWorks SKG's proposed $250-million studio at Playa Vista?], questionable scheme and obvious scam under the sun! And the beat goes on.

Feb. 22, 2015

Just a quick thought or two. Despite the Spanos clan having around $200million not tied up in the Chargers, a figure I believe Don Bauder got from Forbes, I would doubt that they have more than 10% of that in cash, if that much. So the question is who is going to loan them $500-$750 million for a stadium? They can't use the team as collateral on a loan even close to that; NFL bylaws won't let them. And those same bylaws prohibit the NFL from loaning money for a new stadium when a team is relocating. So I just don't see the Spanos clan being able to get anything close to the funds necessary. And the Raiders? Even less of a chance. Although Mark Davis and his mother have a controlling interest, they own less than 50% of the Raiders and the Raiders are valued at less than the Chargers. Add to that the fact that over the weekend, Mark Davis said the Raiders are still trying to get something done in Oakland and the thing with the Chargers "Really, it’s just another part of the process", tells me this is going to turn out to be much ado about nothing. My guess, or maybe prediction is a better term, is that IF two teams end up in Los Angeles, it's going to be Kronke and the Rams in Kronke's stadium, with the Chargers as a tenant, NOT a partner and the Raiders are somewhere other than there.

Just my opinion. Opinions vary.

Feb. 23, 2015

My guess -- worth no more than a guess -- is that the Rams and Raiders end up playing in Inglewood, and Faulconer caves in and gives the Chargers a shiny new stadium at San Diego's expense.

Feb. 25, 2015

Obviously a possibility. But, it would be the voters of San Diego giving the Chargers the stadium.

Feb. 25, 2015

... unless the city finds a way to commit the money without a public vote. I bet they have staff working on nothing but combing through statutes and regulations, trying to find a loophole through which they can drive a Chargers subsidy without a vote.

Feb. 25, 2015

Ok, I think I got it. It's believed that the Chargers advertising is the last dependable income stream for the newspaper although no one knows. So if the Chargers leave town, the conservative U-T could be sold, possibly to Irwin Jacobs, who could shake up politics in a post-Chargers era because Jacobs likes Hillary Clinton and is hosing a fundraiser for Democrats. Do I have that right?

Feb. 26, 2015

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