U-T San Diego Owner Expresses Interest in Buying OC Register

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Our friends at voiceofsandiego.org are reporting that new U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester might be interested in buying the Orange County Register.

It’s an interesting possibility on a couple levels. Manchester, who is one of San Diego’s most powerful real estate developers and a big-time donor to conservative causes, has had quite the controversial start to his life in the news business. In November, during his first week as the U-T’s publisher, Manchester made it clear that he wanted the newsroom to be a booster of downtown business, particularly the effort to build a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers.

Also, former Register newsroom honcho Jeff Light is the U-T San Diego editor.

From the voiceofsandiego.org story:

“There’s no deal right now,” Manchester said today. “Check with me in 30 days and there might be something.”

Manchester, who bought the Union-Tribune in November, said he had not bid on the Orange County paper and that its owner, Freedom Communications, was not currently soliciting bids.

The Register, based in Santa Ana, has a daily circulation of 270,809 and is Freedom’s flagship paper. The Irvine-based company, which owns 24 daily papers across the country, emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. Since November, it has sold three daily papers and struck a deal to sell its eight television stations.

Manchester has expressed a similar level of interest in buying the North County Times, which serves northern San Diego County. Asked whether he’d also consider buying the Los Angeles Times or Riverside Press-Enterprise, Manchester replied: “Sure.”

“I’m interested in all possibilities of extending or acquiring additional media,” he said. But he noted that the U-T’s current focus was on creating a television station, which it calls U-T TV.

Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, said talk of newspaper mergers in Southern California is nothing new. There’s little overlap between the news staffs of the Register and U-T, Nelson said, but their business sides could consolidate.

— DAVID WASHBURN

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