Copley May Sell 3 California Papers

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Copley Press Inc. is considering a possible sale of the Daily Breeze of Torrance and two other Southern California papers, the company said.

The La Jolla-based publisher of 10 daily and nine weekly papers, including the flagship San Diego Union-Tribune, said it has the hired investment firm Evercore Partners to evaluate ”possible mergers, sales or other transactions” involving the three publications, according to a statement issued Thursday.

The company cited competitive pressures in the Los Angeles newspaper market as the reason for the review involving the Daily Breeze, weekly Beach Reporter and the twice-weekly Palos Verdes Peninsula News.

The Daily Breeze has an average daily circulation of 70,076 and employs 284 people. The Daily Breeze has a paid circulation market share of about 3.5 percent in the Los Angeles area. It competes for readers with the Los Angeles Times, owned by Tribune Co. of Chicago; the Los Angeles Daily News, owned by Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc.; The Orange County Register, owned by Santa Ana-based Freedom Communications Inc.; and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp.

”I think the whole industry is taking a look at how it needs to be positioned in the future,” Daily Breeze publisher Art Wible said.

The most logical buyer for the newspaper group would be MediaNews, said analyst John Morton, president of Morton Research Inc. MediaNews has been expanding. In April, it said it would buy four newspapers from The McClatchy Co., including The Monterey County Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, for $1 billion.

Tribune Co. declined to comment Friday. MediaNews did not immediately return a call or an e-mail seeking comment.

Scott Flanders, chief executive officer of Freedom Communications, said his company is looking to expand but would not say if it was interested in the Copley papers.

Copley, which also owns publications in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio, said it began looking at alternatives for its Los Angeles-area papers about a month ago. The process likely will extend into the fall.

”What we’re saying here is any and all types of transactions are up for review,” Wible said.

”It could be a merger of companies, part ownership, full ownership or any other options that somebody might offer that are attractive to the Breeze,” he said. ”One of the options is we could get to the end of this and nothing could happen.”

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