Copley, to Protect ‘San Diego Union-Trib,’ Puts 7 Papers Up for Sale

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By: E&P Staff

The Copley Press Inc., parent company of the San Diego Union-Tribune, announced Tuesday that it is exploring possible sales, mergers or other strategic alternatives for its seven newspapers in Ohio and Illinois.

Copley’s Illinois newspapers are published in Springfield, Lincoln, Peoria and Galesburg. In Ohio, the company’s newspapers are in Canton, Massillon and Dover/New Philadelphia.

Copley is a privately held company based in La Jolla, where it publishes the Union-Tribune, the 21st largest daily newspaper, which it will retain.

“The newspaper business has been very good to my family and me for over a century,” Copley CEO David C. Copley said in a prepared statement. “The flagship remains San Diego and the moves we are announcing secure our ability to keep The San Diego Union-Tribune as an independent, locally owned newspaper for many years into the future.”

Harold W. Fuson Jr., senior vice president and chief legal officer of Copley, said no timetable had been set for getting bids and making decisions regarding the Illinois and Ohio papers.

“There is no urgency associated with getting this done,” he said.
In June, the company announced it would sell its Copley Los Angeles Newspapers group, which includes the Torrance Daily Breeze, the Palos Verdes News and the Beach Reporter. No deal has been announced.

“The process is continuing there, and we expect to complete it,” Fuson said.

The company said its moves have been affected by a combination of a contraction in the newspaper business and the debt occasioned by taxes related to the death of Helen K. Copley in 2004.

Copley’s Ohio papers are The Repository of Canton, The Independent of Massillon and The Times-Reporter of New Philadelphia. Its Illinois papers are The Journal Star of Peoria, The Register-Mail of Galesburg, The State Journal-Register of Springfield and The Courier of Lincoln.

“It has to be disappointing to our employees that an outstanding owner like The Copley Press would decide to sell its Midwestern newspaper holdings,” said David J. Greenfield, publisher of The Repository and president of Copley Ohio Newspapers.

“But the newspaper business is changing with astounding speed, and our revenue base is not what it used to be,” he said.

The company that grew to be The Copley Press was started in 1905 in Illinois by Col. Ira C. Copley. He expanded his company to California in 1928.

In addition to the daily newspapers, The Copley Press owns several weekly papers and has part ownership in a newsprint manufacturing company.

It operates Copley News Service, which is a news, commentary and features service with newspaper customers around the world. It operates news bureaus in Washington, D.C., and the state capital cities of Ohio, Illinois and California, and in Los Angeles, Chicago and Mexico City.
The Journal Star in Peoria reported:

“The announcement was met with stunned silence by Journal Star employees, many of whom recalled hearing about 11 years ago that the Journal Star, after more than a century of family ownership, was for sale. It was eventually acquired by Copley.

“John McConnell, who stayed on as Journal Star publisher when Copley bought the newspaper, told employees it was a difficult announcement to make, but asked that they remain calm and continue to do their jobs as best they can. ‘The uncertainty is nerve racking. The best thing you can do is relax and continue to do your jobs. The best job security is to do a good job,’ he said.”

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