CEO of U-T Denies Reported Efforts to Buy L.A. Times’ Parent Company

Doug Manchester (inset photo) told a GOP women's club meeting that he's in talks to buy the L.A. Times and other Tribune Co. newspapers.

Updated at 11:55 p.m. Feb. 11, 2013

U-T San Diego’s publisher mistakenly told a GOP women’s gathering Monday that he was in negotiations to buy the Chicago-based Tribune Co.—owner of the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers.

Late Monday night, U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch told Patch that publisher Doug Manchester, “who had just returned from traveling, misunderstood [a question from the audience] and indicated the U-T was interested in the Tribune.”

Manchester, 70, had been asked a question regarding the Tribune Co. and the U-T’s interest in acquiring it, Lynch said via email.

But according to Diane Randolph, an attendee, Manchester told the luncheon meeting of the San Diego County Federation of Republican Women: “We’re trying to make this deal happen.” 

Two other witnesses—including former Navajo Canyon Republican Women Federated President Waskah Whelan—told Patch they also heard Manchester say he was “in negotiations” to buy the Tribune Co.

Manchester in 2012 tried to buy The Orange County Register but lost to a Boston-based group. In October, Manchester Lynch Integrated Media Holdings—owner of the U-T—completed purchase of the North County Times and its sister paper in Riverside County, The Californian.

In mid-October, Manchester told KPBS that “We certainly are going to look at [buying the Tribune Co.] We are looking at it, yes. I would like to, yes.”

Earlier, Lynch was quoted as saying that the paper’s ownership was interested in acquiring a company that would give it a national footprint.

“We believe our business model will work and create great economic benefit to all of the investors,” Lynch was quoted as saying.

But Monday’s reported remarks by Manchester—where he was the featured speaker at the county GOP women’s meeting at the Bahia Hotel—were the first to indicate he was in the process of buying the media company.

Randolph—also attending the county GOP Central Committee meeting Monday night at the Rancho Bernardo Inn—said Manchester noted he was getting “some resistance” to buying Tribune Co.

It wasn’t clear whether the resistance was from inside or outside the company.

Randolph—a downtown San Diego resident—is involved in forming a GOP women’s club there as a spinoff to the Navajo Canyon club, which meets at the Brigantine Restaurant just outside La Mesa.

In mid-November, Huffington Post and other media outlets reported that the L.A. Times—coming out of a four-year bankruptcy—could have several suitors including Manchester, Rupert Murdoch and Aaron Kushner, new owner and publisher of the Santa Ana-based Register.

But late Monday, Lynch said: “The fact is the Tribune [Co.] is not for sale as of this date. Accordingly, there have been no negotiations. Further, the U-T will not participate in an auction of the Tribune newspaper assets.

“Rupert [Murdoch] of News Corp., Freedom Communications and other large companies have publicly expressed interest in the Tribune and are likely to overpay for the Tribune assets, should they come to the marketplace.”

Lynch said the U-T is attempting to build its business base, “so that one day down the road, the company might grow.”

He concluded: “The U-T will have no other comments regarding the Tribune.”