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Copley family considers sale as newspaper profits dwindle

San Diego's family-owned Copley Press Inc is considering selling off some of its print assets as newspaper profits across the US continue to dwindle.

In its own daily newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, David C Copley, president and CEO of the company, revealed that he had hired an investment bank to pursue options for the struggling paper that included an outright sale.

On behalf of the company, New York-based advisory and investment firm Evercore Partners is presently seeking bids for Copley subsidiary Union-Tribune Publishing Co, which publishes the Union-Tribune, Spanish-language newspaper Enlace, Today's Local News in North San Diego County, and website SignOnSanDiego.

Like many daily newspapers around the country, the Union-Tribune's circulation and advertising sales have continued to decline, and Copley has already scaled back its media and real estate holdings in response to the tough climate.

As readers migrate to the internet to sate their hunger for news, and as advertisers find alternate means for promotion, the newspaper industry has also been hit by the rising cost of paper. But in the middle of a global credit crunch, many analysts believe conditions will be a negative influence on any potential sale.

"This is the worst possible time to sell a newspaper," said John Morton, president of Maryland-based analyst Morton Research Inc. "You might argue whether or not there is a national recession, but there is no doubt the newspaper industry is in a recession."

Copley has already sold off a number of key assets over the past few years. In May it sold its Copley News Service newswire to Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate for an undisclosed price. Nine newspapers in Illinois and Ohio were sold to GateHouse Media Inc for $380 million last year. In late 2006, Copley sold a regional Californian and three Los Angeles-area weekly newspapers to Hearst Corp for $25.9 million.

"The last couple of years have been a difficult period for the newspaper industry, especially those in a real estate-dependent market like San Diego," said Harold W Fuson, executive vice president of the company. "We have every reason to believe the business will rebound with the economy, but the uncertainties pose too great a risk to sit still."

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