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Home Media Did the O.C. Register put their HQ up for sale because they are hurting?

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Did the O.C. Register put their HQ up for sale because they are hurting?

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By: the New Santa Ana blog

Freedom Communications, owner of the Orange County Register, is putting the newspaper’s longtime five-story, 175,000-square-foot and nearly 16 acres of land in Santa Ana off the I-5 Freeway on Grand Avenue and adjacent property on the market, according to the O.C. Register.

Aaron Kushner, Freedom chief executive and publisher, said in a year-end letter to the staff said if the company does not lease back the existing space, the newspaper will move to another Santa Ana location.

Real estate experts estimate that the Register building alone could sell for $20 million to $25 million.

Freedom sold its former Irvine headquarters seven months after putting it on the market back in August of last year, for $2.67 million – about $50,000 below the asking price, according to the O.C. Register.

With no newspaper experience, Kushner acquired Freedom last year for $50 million and the assumption of pension obligations worth more than $110 million. He quickly set about hiring hundreds of editorial employees, launching a new daily in Long Beach and greatly expanding the number of pages in the flagship Register, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Riverside Press Enterprise building

And in November Freedom completed a $27.25 million deal with Dallas-based A.H. Belo Corp. to buy The Press-Enterprise, a daily newspaper in Riverside, according to the O.C. Register.  That deal included the Press-Enterprise’s production facility, according to the Dallas News.

Now why would the O.C. Register need production facilities in both Santa Ana and in Riverside?  Of course they don’t.  I fully expect them to move all print production to Riverside.  The employees in that area make less money per hour too.

So who will move into the O.C. Register’s Santa Ana facility, which includes the Spanish language weekly, Excelsior?  My sources tell me that the OCTA is looking into the possibility of buying this property, after a deal with the State Fund building fell through.  Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido wants the OCTA to relocate into Santa Ana.  They are currently working out of an office tower in Orange.

Kushner took out high interest loans when he first bought the O.C. Register.  There is no way to know if his company is even making any money at this point.  They shut off their website to non-subscribers and thereby devalued what had been a popular Internet destination.  Even worse they charge the same for digital subscriptions as they do for paper delivery – making it a bad deal.

I can’t see any of this working out for Freedom or Kushner in the long run.

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6 Comments  comments 

6 Responses

  1. We’ve noticed that the print edition has been shrinking since last month. The opinion section is about half the size it had been. Since Kushner took over, there’s never been an increase in local news coverage. Even the ad content is off, and the classifieds have evaporated. Gustavo Arellano hears rumors that confirm they’re in trouble, big time. And trying to expand into the IE, Long Beach and LA won’t help at all. They’re done by year end.

  2. Who would want the Register as a tenant if they’re going belly up? They’ve dramatically increased their print subscription rates (nearly double) as we’ve blogged here, but they’ve failed to deliver any higher quality or quantity of content. They blew Greenhut off as well, so they lost one of the few editorialists who really knew OC politics and finance.

    Take a look at the bare minimum of coverage they’ve given the Great Park audit. The free OC Weekly was way ahead.

    At least they did cover the Nick Berardino melt down — strange that the Voice of OC did NOT.

    Update: Santana has reported on it overnight: http://m.voiceofoc.org/county/article_357b4bb4-7b12-11e3-b7ce-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=jqm

  3. carpetbagger

    Is it true Kushner has formed in another company, which is rumored to take over the production end of the business independently, perhaps also for the LAT( common practice). With non-union labor and other efficiencies, he can “bleed” the brand for cash and then still own the production end of the business, which will permitted to operate Under “restructuring” or BK, the version I read had Kushner mixing it up with corp raider Carl Strunk, the Newport Beach guy who engineered the sodomy on Carl Karcher on behalf of Bill Foley.

    This is ALL about money, has nothing to do with News, Local Coverage or Politics.

    There is and has been a plan in place.

  4. Why would you shut down your website to non subscribers… that is just a no no in simple business.