Purchase agreement signed today by Tribune Publishing; papers to remain separate brands

By Dan McSwain
May 7, 2015 – 4:01 p.m.

The owner of the Los Angeles Times has agreed to buy U-T San Diego, combining two of Southern California’s oldest and most recognizable media companies, executives announced Thursday.

Tribune Publishing, which owns nine other daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, said it will pay $85 million for the U-T operation, a sum that doesn’t include its Mission Valley headquarters.

With potential to reduce costs and combine resources, the deal is designed to help the two media operations compete for readers and advertisers against an onslaught of firms, ranging from Facebook to Politico to Yelp, that focus exclusively on reaching people through the Internet and mobile devices.

Austin Beutner, the Times publisher and chief executive, will hold those posts at both companies after the deal closes in coming weeks. Employing about 500 journalists in the Times newsroom and 175 at the U-T, the combined companies would offer subject-matter expertise that no competitor can match, he said.
A letter to our readers from Austin Beutner

“That’s our comparative advantage; … we have more voices and more content, and that’s how we win in a digital world,” Beutner said in an interview before the announcement. “We compete by having the best content.”

To that end, Beutner said a regional operating parent, called California News Group, would keep the Times and U-T as distinct brands and separate newsrooms. Yet he said they would share some stories, photos, video and other content, when doing so can best serve readers.

Most people won’t notice any changes, aside from improved coverage, Beutner said.

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