Hotelier Doug Manchester, a major donor to the campaign to repeal marriage equality in California, is buying San Diego’s daily newspaper.
Manchester’s purchase of The San Diego Union-Tribune was announced Thursday. He paid more than $110 million for the paper, he told the website Voice of San Diego, which noted that is more than double what previous owner Platinum Equity paid in 2009. He declined to provide other details, saying the parties had agreed not to comment until the deal is finalized between November 30 and December 15.
In 2008, Manchester donated $125,000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that amended California’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, superseding a state Supreme Court ruling that opened marriage to gay couples. Prop. 8, approved by voters, is being challenged in court; one federal judge found it violated the U.S. Constitution, but his ruling is on appeal. Manchester’s activism on behalf of the proposition led to boycotts of his hotels, such as the Manchester Grand Hyatt.
Some observers told Voice of San Diego they’re taking a wait-and-see attitude about Manchester’s operation of the Union-Tribune, but a dimmer view came from Fred Sainz, the former press secretary to gay-friendly mayor Jerry Sanders who now works for the Human Rights Campaign.
“He has a well-earned reputation for being a small-minded, resentful, mean-spirited man,” Sainz said of Manchester. “And those are not the character traits you want in the publisher of your newspaper. It’s going to be hard to believe the editorial positions of the newspaper were arrived at in a thoughtful and unbiased manner.” Sainz suggested a community intervention, saying the sale to Manchester is “putting way too much power in the hands of one person with a multitude of agendas.”