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    LA billionaire sells San Diego Union-Tribune to owner of Southern California News Group
    • July 10, 2023

    The majority owner of the Southern California News Group has bought the San Diego Union-Tribune from Los Angeles billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong for an undisclosed amount.

    The U-T purchase by investor Alden Global Capital, announced Monday, July 10,  comes during turbulent times in the newspaper industry as audience and advertising are increasingly absorbed by search and social media companies. The U-T will be operated by Alden-controlled MediaNews Group, which also runs the 11 newspapers of the Southern California News Group.

    “This valued acquisition enables MediaNews Group to advance its stewardship in California as the largest provider of news and information across the state as we continue our commitment to ensure newspapers remain viable well into the future,” said Sharon Ryan, executive vice president of California for MediaNews Group.

    Alden’s purchase will grow the California reach of MediaNews Group which owns the Southern California News Group and more than a dozen newspapers in Northern California, including those with the Bay Area News Group.

    A memo to the U-T staff announcing the deal said the Union-Tribune will need to “make some difficult staffing decisions as we assume management. Reductions will be necessary to offset the slowdown in revenues as economic headwinds continue to impact the media industry. We will seek efficiencies in business operations, distribution, and production while striving to support and prioritize the robust, local newsgathering needed to serve the communities that rely on the Union-Tribune for excellence in journalism.”

    Cooperation between the U-T and SCNG newsrooms may be part of the future newsgathering operations, but sources close to the deal said it was too early for any specific announcements.

    The memo highlights the financial stress created by Big Tech giants who’ve successfully lured readers and advertising away from newspapers – often by using  the newspaper industry’s own work.

    “It’s no secret that our industry faces substantial revenue pressures brought on by big tech aggregators who redistribute our original content for their own profit, at the expense of our staff, diminishing our readership and causing declining advertising and circulation revenues,” the memo stated, “Despite impressive news reporting and a hardworking staff, the U-T has not been immune to these pressures.”

    The U-T has San Diego roots that date to 1868. It was bought by Tribune Publishing in 2015 and then acquired along with the Los Angeles Times by Soon-Shiong three years later. The Times recently announced it was eliminating 74 positions in its newsroom, or roughly 13% of the staff.

    A statement from the Los Angeles Times said the Soon-Shiong family “made a good faith effort to rebuild and support both news organizations. We hope that this change now will position both the L.A. Times and San Diego Union-Tribune to succeed. The ongoing work of transforming the L.A. Times into a self-sustaining institution will be our focus, as we believe that Los Angeles needs and deserves a strong, independent news organization.”

    ​ Orange County Register