Updated at 12:45 p.m. June 11, 2012
The Orange County Register and sister papers are being bought by a Boston group, its parent company announced Monday. Last month, U-T San Diego publisher Doug Manchester had signaled he was close to buying the daily.
Irvine-based Freedom Communications Holdings said it has agreed to be acquired by 2100 Trust LLC in a merger with a subsidiary of 2100 Trust, which the Boston Globe reports as being headed by former greeting card tycoon Aaron Kushner.
Freedom said the deal, with an undicsclosed value, will be completed in about 30 days.
“All current Freedom employees at the operating locations will transition to the new ownership,” said Mitchell Stern, Freedom’s Chief Executive officer.
Original story of May 9, 2012:
U-T San Diego is in “final talks” to buy The Orange County Register and 24 community newspapers it owns, according to a witness to the announcement and a reported confirmation by the U-T publisher.
John Lynch, CEO of U-T San Diego, reportedly told the Downtown San Diego Lions Club on Tuesday that his “multiplatform media” company is near finalizing purchase of the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily based in Santa Ana.
At 1:10 p.m. Lynch told Patch via email: “No confirmation of anything other than we would like to expand and are looking at all other newspapers in Southern California. Miles to go before we sleep.”
But a private daily newsletter emailed to current and former U-T newsroom employees said early Wednesday: “Lynch indicated that the newsrooms of the two former heavyweights would be combined to provide one media brand for all of SoCal, from Los Angeles to the Mexican border.
“[Lynch] promised more aggressive reporting on all fronts, including providing more in-depth stories in the print addition, as well as a major commitment to the Hispanic market and more complete sports coverage.”
The observer also said: “In response to a question from one Lion member about [columnist] Tom Blair’s leaving the U-T, Lynch said all longtime reporters have been told they need to ‘reinvent themselves’ but added some ‘are not going to embrace” the company’s new policy.’ ”
The luncheon meeting was attended by about 30 Lions and their guests, said the newsletter.
Later Wednesday, the North County Times reported that Lions Club member George Saadeh introduced Lynch on Tuesday and said the owner of Wurts Interiors confirmed Lynch’s remarks about a Register sale.
“I’ve known John for umpteen years,” Saadeh was quoted as saying. “When he says something like that, it’s true; it’s coming to fruition.”
Meanwhile, Voice of San Diego reported that publisher Manchester confirmed that the San Diego daily was close to acquiring the Register.
Voice cited a series of tweets by KPBS reporter Joanne Faryon, who said via Twitter: “U-T CEO John Lynch tells crowd deal to buy OCR is close. Manchester confirms. Lynch backpedals. http://bit.ly/IR4OQZ” and later tweeted: “Trying to get Manchester on @KPBSEvening next week to tell us more about OC Register talks.”
Patch left voice mail for Mark McEachen, chief operating officer of Irvine-based Freedom Communications Inc., which owns the Register, but queries have not been returned.
About 5 p.m. Wednesday, Lions Club member Ken Mitchell responded to a Patch inquiry by saying: “Mr. Lynch provided an informative 30-minute presentation about the new ownerships vision for their, as you called it, ‘multiplatform media.’ There were about 30 members and [guests] present.”
Mitchell said the club doesn’t record or transcribe weekly meetings, “so we cannot provide that for you. We have a longstanding policy that we do not do media interviews relating to our speakers.”
Officially, he said, the club can't confirm what Lynch said about a possible purchase of the Register.
In early March, Voice of San Diego reported that publisher Manchester said he was interested in buying the Register.
“There's no deal right now,” Manchester was quoted as saying. “Check with me in 30 days and there might be something.”
In September 2009, Register parent Freedom Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware court, aiming to cut its debt to $325 million from more than $770 million.
But a month ago, Freedom says it erased its debt by selling eight TV stations to Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. in a $385 million deal.