Last May, when Chicago-based Tribune Publishing bought the San Diego Union-Tribune from developer Douglas Manchester, Austin Beutner seemed poised to take the city by storm. Appointed publisher of both the U-T and the Los Angeles Times, the former Wall Street wheeler-dealer and Democratic ex-deputy mayor of L.A. and friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton pledged to make over failing newspaper models and personally oversee everything from interviews with governor Jerry Brown to daily editorials.
Then Beutner was suddenly gone, dumped in September by Tribune after a reportedly failed attempt by his onetime associate, Democratic billionaire Eli Broad, to buy out the Times and U-T as part of Broad’s effort to build a personal Southern California newspaper empire. After the firing, Beutner made a round of journalism school appearances and gave interviews bemoaning his dismissal and then fell silent.
Now, after a period of quietude, Beutner is back, on a smaller scale. The locale is the city of Inglewood, coincidentally the putative destination of the Chargers, still mulling whether to cut a deal with billionaire Stan Kroenke, who is building an NFL sports-and-event palace for the newly renamed L.A. Rams in the impoverished city. Two weeks ago Beutner got together with the L.A. Clippers basketball team to hand out free eyewear provided by Beutner’s charitable foundation, Vision to Learn, to more than 50 Inglewood High School students.
“In low-income communities, 95 out of 100 [percent] of those kids don’t get the glasses they need,” said Beutner in a statement issued by the team. According to a report by Guidestar.org, Beutner’s nonprofit has been partially funded by a $250,000 grant from the California Endowment, along with $100,000 from the Mark Taper Foundation and $50,000 from City National Bank. The president, Gaye Williams, a colleague from Beutner’s days working for ex-L.A. Democratic mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, makes about $53,000 a year from her foundation gig, according to the group’s IRS filing for 2013. Some expect Beutner to eventually make a triumphal return to San Diego, if his friend Broad can ever assemble a deal to take over the Times and U-T.
Airbnb, the controversial home-stay outfit from San Francisco, ran up $22,530 in lobbying expenses here during the final three months of last year, its San Diego city disclosure shows.