Monday, July 24, 2006

'Sources' lied about Examiner price

When the San Francisco Examiner was sold by the Florence Fang family to billionaire Phil Anschutz in 2004, the price wasn't officially disclosed. But the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers quoted a "source" as saying the price was $20 million. A good number for a free daily that hadn't made money in years. Now, according to the LA Times, the price was actually $10.7 million. What's more, Anschutz later gave away the Examiner archives, dating back to the years when Hearst owned the paper, to UC Berkeley for a $18.4 million tax deduction — which suggests he pocketed as much as $7.7 million on the deal.

These facts emerged at the end of a long LA Times profile of Anschutz and his various business activities. In 2005, Florence Fang -- who owned the Examiner from 2001 to 2004 -- sued Anschutz and her former publisher, Scott McKibbin, who later went to work for Anschutz, alleging that they rigged the sale of her newspaper. She claimed McKibbin didn't shop the paper around to prospective buyers, but instead leaked confidential information to Anschutz. McKibbin's brother Ryan, the former Denver Post publisher, was on Anschutz's payroll, too.

While the defendants officially denied any wrongdoing, Anschutz settled the case out of court. Terms weren't disclosed, but one requirement was that Anschutz's deposition be destroyed.

The LA Times also learned that McKibbin, who has since left Anschutz's organization, was being paid $420,000 a year in salary and received a $180,000 bonus and a country club membership.

The rest of the LA Times story provides an insight into the character of Anschutz, who it appears plans to build a chain of free daily newspapers. (Editor's note: We're aware that LA Times doesn't have a track record of being fair to conservatives -- remember the attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger a few days before the election? -- so this story might contain errors. If corrections are made, or Anschutz comments publicly, we will provide that information on this page.)