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"Happy Days," the yacht that belonged to the late David Copley, publisher of the Union-Tribune, has been sold, according to the publication BoatInternational.com. The price was not given. The Reader had reported in January of this year that Copley's lavish yacht was for sale. BoatInternational.com said the sale was an in-house one -- Fraser Yachts representing both the buyer and the seller.

The yacht was built by Delta Marine in 2006. At that time, the craft was said to be worth $33 million. But when it went on the market in January, it was listed at $34.7 million. The yacht was registered in the tiny tax and secrecy haven of the Marshall Islands -- generally, a ploy for not paying sales tax. Copley threw lavish parties on the yacht in such Beautiful People havens as Monaco. Some of the soirees were faithfully recorded in U-T columns by the late Burl Stiff, society writer for the Union-Tribune. David Copley's yacht and the publicized parties thereupon did not sit well with employees, because the company was dumping assets, and the staff knew that head-chopping would come. (It did.)

The yacht was registered as KABOOM LLC and billed as the largest composite yacht ever built in America at the time. A composite yacht is made of space-age materials rather than the conventional steel or aluminum. The craft required a staff of 12. BoatInternational reported that the yacht "is designed for entertaining, complete with day head, shower, Jacuzzi, bar, elevator to all decks, and outdoor galley. A lightweight, contemporary bimini top that supports the mast, radar, and communications systems offers guests shade."

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dwbat June 29, 2013 @ 11:46 a.m.

I'm surprised Ron Howard didn't buy it!



Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 11:58 a.m.

dwbat: Maybe Ron Howard of the old "Happy Days" tv show bought it. I don't know who the buyer was at this point. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 1:43 p.m.

SurfPup: A beautiful boat on which Beautiful People rode the waves. Best, Don Bauder


Burwell June 29, 2013 @ 12:13 p.m.

I read awhile back that shortly before his death Copley spent $400,000 to have the boat repainted. I imagine the operating costs for such a boat are at least $500,000 a year. The boat is little more than a monument to Copley's lifestyle of excess and gluttony that carved at least 20 years off his life expectancy. I wonder whether his mother ever tried to curb his excesses by threatening to cut him out of the will. Perhaps James Copley set it up so that David would inherit everything regardless of what his mother did so she had no control. In any event it appears that Helen Copley merely stood aside while David literally ate, drank, and smoked himself to death. He should have been confined to a mental institution for his own good, certainly by his early 20s. Dissipation is an ugly way to go.


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 1:59 p.m.

Burwell: Helen did get impatient with David -- for example, when he would be late for a meeting. The story (credible) is that after David was given varying tasks at the company, top Copley executives figured he couldn't make it as an executive, much less chief executive. They were going to tell her at a dinner. As the story goes, Dick Capen said he would give the word to her himself. He did -- and before long Capen was out. (He went on to be publisher of the Miami Herald.) She was quite protective of David, and had one of the Copley top executives watch over him. But I doubt that anyone warned him he would be cut out of his inheritance if he didn't wise up. You are correct that he ate, smoked, and drank himself to death. He became almost morbidly obese before the heart transplant. Then he lost a lot of weight and shed some of his bad habits. I never thought he really ran the company when his title was CEO, but I understand he was the one who delayed layoffs of personnel. He had an artistic flair and was a kind, generous, painfully shy, and -- I have heard -- unhappy person. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh June 29, 2013 @ 4:07 p.m.

Did Helen or Jim Copley ever indulge in anything as over-the-top as that yacht? I have no recollection of her having a yacht, so if she did, kept it well out of view. Yes, they had that opulent home in La Jolla, but beyond that didn't tend to flaunt their wealth, which was considerable even when Jim was alive. It was David who had about six separate residences in the area, and who loved to bob about in the Mediterranean hob-nobbiing with folks who probably laughed at him behind his back and only pretended to like and respect him. Sad is the best word to describe it all.


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 6:29 p.m.

Visduh: Yours are perceptive observations. After Jim died, Helen did entertain fairly lavishly. One mistake the family made was to have their opulent parties written up in the U-T at a time when labor relations were abysmal. But I am not aware of any yacht in the Jim/Helen or Helen/alone days. Nor am I aware of other homes they had, but I could be wrong on that. Helen had fairly humble roots in Iowa. My guess is that she was repulsed by much of David's expensive self-gratification. Much of his big spending -- such as the yacht -- came after she was dead. Best, Don Bauder


rdotinga June 29, 2013 @ 4:57 p.m.

There are plenty of wealthy people who waste their money on dumb things. This one also gave very generously to charity and prevented layoffs at the U-T much longer than many other publishers.

He obviously grew up in a family that was difficult, to say the least, and he struggled with a lot of personal issues and loads of public mockery. (There's no missing the anti-gay tone in a lot of the criticism of him, some of which - and this is rich -- comes from fellow La Jollans.)

He still managed to be a kind and generous man who never steered his newspaper in the sharp rightward direction that it's taken under Papa Doug.

In death as in life, he deserves some sympathy instead of a lot of clucking from the gawker crowd.


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 6:41 p.m.

Randy: You make some good points. He was kind and generous. As I have said before, however, his delaying of layoffs was not helping the newspaper. The U-T had become quite bloated after the LA Times came to town, and the staff should have been trimmed much earlier. Yes, David did suffer from public mockery, but someone in his position, with his well-known predilections (such as excessive alcohol consumption) was bound to get some contumely. Actually, I always liked David and strongly liked Helen. In re the rightward slant: few remember that as soon as she came in, Helen declared that the Union would be moderately conservative. It had been arch-conservative under Jim. Despite that intention, the paper remained rightwing partly, I think, because of her contempt for the labor unions at the paper. She (and David, too) were at editorial meetings. She knew where the Union and later the U-T were going editorially. For her own reasons, she did not stop the strong rightward drift. Best, Don Bauder


SurfPuppy619 June 29, 2013 @ 5:40 p.m.

He still managed to be a kind and generous man who never steered his newspaper in the sharp rightward direction that it's taken under Papa Doug. Sorry, but the UT was already THERE long before Manchester took it over, it is/was/has been an ultra conservative right wing paper for as long as I have lived in SD, heck the UT even recommended HUFFINGTON over DiFi in their senate race years back, HUFFINGTON, the very definition of an empty suit trust fund baby with no accomplishments of his own whatsoever.......stop trying to spin the truth Randy.


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 6:48 p.m.

SurfPup: Yes, the Union and then the U-T were conservative. However, they favored public actions that were the antithesis of true conservatism, such as massive corporate welfare. The U-T editorially was much like today's Supreme Court: big business is always right, whether or not its programs are genuinely conservative. Best, Don Bauder


rdotinga June 29, 2013 @ 6:04 p.m.

Sorry, Pup of Pap, the facts don't fit your narrative.

Of course the U-T was right wing under David Copley. But it was the San Diego brand of moderate-to-conservative right wing. The U-T endorsed Democrats on occasion and was moderate on issues like gay rights.

The Copleys prized gentility and genteel conservatism. The Manchester brand is different.

Unlike under Manchester, the Copley editorial page would never have declared Obama to be the worst president of all time or shilled for the tenets of the anti-Obama movie or run pro-DeMaio editorials on the front page.

There is a difference between the types of right wing that these publishers represent. The divide reflects the battle within the GOP itself over the ascent of the Tea Party.


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 6:54 p.m.

Randy: You are correct in saying the U-T under Copley was not pugnaciously conservative, as Manchester/Lynch are. Yes, editorials in the Copley years were often ill-researched (no matter the position) and the paper's editorial position was often evident in slanted news coverage. The Manchester/Lynch style is bumptious, swashbuckling conservatism. Best, Don Bauder


SurfPuppy619 June 29, 2013 @ 8:36 p.m.

Of course the U-T was right wing under David Copley. But it was the San Diego brand of moderate-to-conservative right wing. The U-T endorsed Democrats on occasion and was moderate on issues like gay rights. I can think of once, maybe TWICE that the UT endorsed a democrat, it NEVER happened. And as I said, my point was driven home in spades when the UT recommended/endorsed Huffington, an idiot trust find baby w/NO experience whatsoever in politics, over Difi for senate (DiFi was an experienced, seasoned and most would say well versed politician), in what at the time was the most expensive political race in US history @ $50 MILLION. As for calling Obama the worst President of all time- if you recall ALL right wing media in 2007 were calling Hillary Clinton the most liberal senator in the senate, until Obama won the Dem primary, then HE was the most "liberal" senate in the senate. Back when Ronnie Raygun was running the right said Carter was the worst president. The right wing media will call whoever is in charge or leading the most liberal, the worst president/whatever, it comes to whomever is in charge and is taken at face value as hyperbole


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 8:56 p.m.

SurfPup: I did a column several years ago about the U-T endorsing Scott Peters, Democrat. Of course, Peters had a few days earlier made some promises of city government favors for Bob Kittle, the chief editorial writer. The paper also endorsed and generally backed Maureen O'Connor, but of course she was a close friend of Helen Copley. I think you will find that the paper in the Copley reign did endorse some Democrats, but there were often extenuating circumstances. Best, Don Bauder


SurfPuppy619 June 29, 2013 @ 8:40 p.m.

As for Manchester, I cannot even call the UT a newspaper anymore. It has a handful of local stories, most stories are off a wire service, and the guy put an editorial on the front page of the Sunday paper last January promoting a football stadium on port land., utterly ridiculous- the UT is not really a legit paper anymore.


Don Bauder June 29, 2013 @ 8:57 p.m.

SurfPup: That opinion is shared by some others. That's probably why the circulation is not going anywhere, even after the North County Times purchase. Best, Don Bauder


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