It's been almost three weeks since a noted newspaper analyst reported the possible imminent takeover of U-T San Diego by Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, with not a peep of confirmation or denial out of the Mission Valley lair of publisher and high-dollar GOP sugar papa Douglas Manchester.
"While the acquisition could have closed as early as today,” media maven Ken Doctor reported in a March 3 blog post, “it’s now been held up by a familiar concern in newspaper property sales: pension obligations."
Doctor noted that an attempt to gain control of the newspaper through a nonprofit vehicle by Point Loma real estate mogul and yachtsman Malin Burnham and a group of thus-far unidentified financial backers remained in the murky mix, as did a buyout try by Manchester cohort and radio impresario John Lynch, reportedly funded by billionaire Democrat Ron Burkle.
The financial uncertainty of the newspaper company and the unresolved future status of its ownership coincides with the possible move of the NFL's San Diego Chargers, long a stalwart of sports page readership and advertising, to Los Angeles.
As the paper has been hollowed out through two ownership changes and the national demise of print, coverage of the Chargers has grown ever more important to slowing the steady erosion of its readership and trying to salvage whatever value the operation might still have to a serious buyer, inside media observers posit.
As long as the football team's relocation hangs in the balance, this line of thinking goes, there is no way for the voluble Manchester to get the kind of price he may be seeking to escape his costly journalistic morass. Meanwhile, workers at the troubled operation are said be left twisting in a gale of uncertainty and beset by pension worries.
The current cash status of hotel and real estate magnate Manchester, a master in the art of using OPM — Other People's Money — to do his deals, is a tightly held secret.
Texas records show his companies borrowed $295 million last year from troubled asset mogul Thomas Barrack for a hotel now under construction in Austin.
According to its most recent report to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, time-stamped November 14 of last year, the publisher's charitable entity, the Manchester Family Life Foundation, has shrunken slightly, its book value dropping from $1,960,392 on April 13, 2013, to $1,730,829 as of last March 31.
It had total income of $33,048, all but $750, which was listed as a contribution, derived from dividends and capital gains on investments.
The foundation handed out a total of $264,000 in contributions, including $150,000 to the United Way, $32,000 to the American Cancer Society, $50,000 to the Epilepsy Society of San Diego, and $20,000 to Las Patronas, which throws La Jolla's annual Jewel Ball.
Also included on the list of recipients was the Jonathan & Faye Kellerman Foundation of Los Angeles, which got $12,000.
That nonprofit, with a book value of $212,340 at the end of August 2013, according to the most recently available disclosure statement, has given $35,130 to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and $30,000 to Keren Yehoshua V'Yisroel, a New Jersey–based charity benefiting needy families in Jerusalem, according to its website.
According to his website, Jonathan Kellerman is a best-selling suspense writer, having authored The Golem of Hollywood with son Jesse. Based on his telling, thriller writing is more lucrative than the newspaper business.
"At the core, it’s a crime thriller, one of the scariest stories I’ve ever told. But there’s also much more — exotic locales, a beyond-strong female protagonist and an amazing love story. Stephen King read an advance copy and called it ‘an extraordinary work of detection, suspense and supernatural mystery.’”
His wife Faye is also a suspense novelist, according to her website.
"She had four children, and her eldest son, Jesse, has published five novels including his latest Potboiler which was nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award. She lives in Los Angeles and Santa Fe with her husband, Jonathan."
Their elaborate living arrangements were detailed by the Wall Street Journal in March 2012.
"There's the big Beverly Hills home with a pool, tennis court, koi pond and lots of art. When they need a break from that, they head to their glass-and-wood house on the beach in Malibu or to their 1,700-square-foot apartment in an Art Deco building on Fifth Avenue in New York. 'I love going from the rush of New York to the dead quiet of Santa Fe,' said Mr. Kellerman."
According to news reports, son Jesse once lived in La Jolla. We’ve left a message for him seeking more details about the Manchester money.