A newspaper journalist-turned-Silicon Valley media mogul sets up the dominoes which, once tipped over, could lead "a single entity" to "publish all the dailies from the Tehachapi Mountains at the north end of metro L.A. to the Mexican border."
At the middle of it all is the pending sale of the Orange County Register.
Using numbers and knowledge and stuff on his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, Alan D. Mutter argues that the Chicago-based Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, and the Denver-based Media News Group, which owns just about every Southern California daily that is not the Times, Register or San Diego Union-Tribune, will be the most-likely winners of the bidding war for the Santa Ana daily.
Should that happen, Mutter believes it is conceivable that the winning bidder would merge with the losing bidder before the new behemoth sets its sights on the Union-Tribune and eventually sews up the entire Southern California mainstream daily newspaper market. Monopoly obviously isn't just a board game.
He's not some loon howling at the moon. Mutter was a columnist and editor in Chicago, the No. 2 editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, the chief operating officer of one of the largest cable television companies in the country and the creator of three Internet start-ups in the Silicon Valley. He's now a media consultant who rubs elbows with the major players.
"The controlling interest in each of the four major newspaper companies in SoCal is held by financially oriented investors whose business model is to buy distressed assets at low prices, improve the profitability of the holdings by increasing sales and/or cutting expenses and then exiting deals as rapidly as possible through either an IPO or by selling the assets to someone else," Mutter reasons.
"One of the fastest and surest ways for the investors to hasten a profitable departure is by going for the operating synergies bound to result from putting their assets together."
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He does caution it is also possible that, for instance, a new Times-Register would go it alone without the Media News properties, which includes the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the Torrance Daily Breeze and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
Or, Platinum Equity, the LA investment firm that bought the Union-Tribune in 2009, squeezed it real tight and returned it to profitability, could snatch the crown jewel of Irvine-based Freedom Communications. Under that scenario, Platinum could then go after the Times and Media News papers which, after all, have struggled as much as the Register in Southern California.
Which just proves that the money men figure the only way for daily print journalism to survive is to get bigger and bigger.
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