SD Union Tribune announces sale

The San Diego Union-Tribune is being sold to a BeverlyHills-based private equity firm, it was announced Wednesday.

It wasn’t disclosed how much Platinum Equity would pay The Copley Press for the newspaper, only that the transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of the year, according to a joint statement.

The La Jolla-based newspaper group announced in July that it hired a New York-based investment banking firm to “explore strategic options’’ for the company’s future, including a potential sale.

Harold W. Fuson Jr., Copley’s executive vice president, said Platinum Equity emerged from that process as the bidder “best equipped’’ to preserve the Union-Tribune as a community institution.

“This is a vital business with a long tradition of public service and a preeminent position in one of America’s finest media markets,’' Fuson said.

“At this important juncture, we believe that Platinum Equity is the right partner for the Union-Tribune, its employees and the San Diego community.’'

The Platinum Equity group includes David Black, who owns and operates more than 150 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada."The union-Tribune is a premier media property in an outstanding market,’' Black said in a statement.

Louis Samson, who led Platinum Equity’s acquisition of the newspaper called the Union-Tribune, “more than a business. It’s an institution in San Diego.’' He added that “it faces enormous challenge in a period of tremendous upheaval for the newspaper industry. We will bring a strong operational focus that helps ensure the Union-Tribune not only survives in this market, but thrives.’'

The sale comes as many other newspapers are going out of business or becoming online-only media outlets.

According to the Union-Tribune, its advertising has dropped 40 percent since 2006.

Over the past year and a half, the Union-Tribune, which has been owned by Copley Press since 1928, has significantly trimmed its workforce through layoffs and buyouts.

“This is terrific news,’' Union-Tribune Editor Karin Winner told staffers after the sale was announced, the newspaper reported. “This is a company that really believes in us and the future,’' she said of Platinum Equity. “This is a company that really wants to see journalism continue. They believe in this region. ... They are a strong, healthy company.’'

In recent years, Copley Press has been divesting its assets.

In 2007, Copley Press sold nine newspapers it owned in the Midwest. The Union-Tribune reported today that Copley Press has now also sold the bi-weekly Borrego Sun. It’s not clear what Copley Press assets remain.