Copley Press, owners of the San Diego Union-Tribune, is exploring sale of the troubled paper, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal ($). The paper has a daily circulation of 289,000, and the closely held Copley is based in La Jolla, Calif.
The Copley chain was founded in 1928 by Ira Clifton Copley, and it remains in family control today, with David C. Copley, who succeeded his mother, Helen Copley, the current CEO. It has felt the squeeze of a smallish family newspaper chain, much as the Blethen family has for The Seattle Times Co., and two years ago, Copley was forced to put its Midwest newspapers, mostly in small cities like Peoria, on the market. Rumors of the sale of the San Diego property have been frequent for the past 20 years, according to a story in VoiceofSanDiego.com.
One problem these family media companies face, aside from inheritance taxes, is that when times get tough they can be forced to pare dividends, even though many family members depend on such dividends for their income. McClatchy Co., heavily burdened by borrowing more than $3 billion to buy Knight Ridder in 2006, has just signaled that it will be re-evaluating the stock dividend, according the the Journal report, and E.W. Scripps may also be trimming the level of its dividends. Locally, McClatchy owns 49.5 percent of The Seattle Times, as well as papers in Anchorage, Tacoma, Olympia, Bellingham, Tri-Cities, and Boise.