San Diego Business Journal

U-T Buys North County Times and Californian

Originally published September 10, 2012 at 12:05 a.m., updated September 10, 2012 at 8:18 a.m.

Douglas F. Manchester and the San Diego Union-Tribune have purchased the North County Times and Daily Californian. The sale comes less than a year after Manchester acquired the Union-Tribune and renamed it U-T San Diego, and just months after Manchester lost out in the bidding for the Orange County Register.

U-T CEO John Lynch said nothing has been signed yet.

The sales price was not disclosed, but there is speculation that the North County Times is currently profitable and was sold for five times its cash flow, or between $8 million and $10 million.

The North County Times has been part of the newspaper group Lee Enterprises, and it has an average daily circulation of 74,848, according to the ABC North County Audit for the six months ending March 31. That circulation includes a significant number of subscribers to its Daily Californian edition in southwest Riverside County.

The North County Times first published Dec. 3, 1995, after the merger of two longtime rival newspapers, the North County Blade-Citizen of Oceanside and the Escondido-based Times Advocate. The Times Advocate’s roots extend to 1886; those for the Blade reach back to 1892. On Jan. 1, 1997, The Californian in Temecula became an edition of the North County Times.

Manchester paid $110 million for the Union-Tribune in December, when the newspaper was reported to be earning before interest, taxes and accounting adjustments about $20 million. Manchester, who prefers to be called “Papa Doug,” has expanded editorial coverage in high school sports, military and social events in his short time as publisher and owner. Several months ago, Manchester launched a television station, U-T TV, which has failed to attract much viewership, but which has allowed the media company to leverage all of its content-generating muscle.

It is expected Manchester will continue to publish the North County Times as a separate publication, but the purchase allows Manchester to consolidate and reduce production, sales and back-end expenses. How much consolidation of editorial functions there will be under the new ownership has not been disclosed.