Photo by Paul Body
Sitting next to him drinking coffee at his newest resort, the Grand Del Mar, I asked Doug Manchester how exactly someone buys a newspaper company for $110 million. Did you write a check for the Union-Tribune?
“Yes,” he replied, calm and matter of fact. “I did.”
It was one of my favorite exchanges during my interview with Manchester. I spent a few hours with him and John Lynch, the newspaper’s new CEO, while working on our in-depth profile that ran last Friday. In all, I spent more than a month conducting research for the story about the new owner and publisher of the newspaper he’s since renamed U-T San Diego. The profile ran here and in the February issue of San Diego Magazine.
Other San Diego journalists have profiled him before me. Here’s a reading list on Manchester. Taken together, our profile and three others I found help paint a fuller picture of one of San Diego’s most prominent developers and one of its most complicated public figures. The three earlier profiles of Manchester are good markers for three phases of his life: before, during and after his downtown hotel projects.
Before: Developer Keeps Friends, Foes En Garde, San Diego Evening Tribune, July 26, 1984. Manchester, now 69, was just 42 when this profile was written. When he told me he’d entered a new phase of his life, how he explained away his noted temper, it was this earlier era that he was distancing himself from. The profile captures where his reputation came from.
Key Excerpts: Douglas Manchester has a style that makes him a tough person to work for — or with.
“When Manchester signs a contract,” observed a government official recently, “he thinks that’s just the start of negotiations.” …
In an interview at his La Jolla office last week, while Manchester said he would not describe himself as confrontational by nature, he did admit he sometimes gets impatient and irritated.
“Your mood varies from day to day and some days you are more easily irritated than others. You don’t understand why certain things are happening and you let it show more than you should,” he said.
While Manchester and his family earlier this month vacationed in Sun Valley, his staff was busy assuaging some of the hard feelings their boss engendered with port officials. “Any confrontation with the port is over,” he said.
(Of course, it wasn’t, as he later sued the port over delays in convention center construction. And he won an $11 million settlement.)
During: The Amazing Maverick, San Diego Metropolitan Magazine, January 1997. When the magazine profiled Manchester 15 years ago, it left out most criticisms. But it explained why, an important illustration of how he is viewed by those who laud him.
Key Excerpt: Doug Manchester is San Diego’s greatest modern-day developer. There, it’s said. Let the grousing begin by those who allege he has wronged, knocked aside, sued or otherwise bested them. And end. It is Manchester that history will remember. The facts, in the form of more than 3.5 million square feet of architectural landmarks, speak for themselves.
After: Maverick With Muscle: San Diego Union-Tribune, Sept. 27, 2005. More than any other piece I read, this profile painted the best portrait of the personality of a man known both for his philanthropy and his temper.
Key Excerpts: Unlike the firebrand developer he is thought to be, he speaks in quiet, deliberate tones, sprinkling his conversations with words such as “grace,” “blessings” and “prayers.” He admits to weeping openly and often. …
Manchester acknowledges the hard-edged caricature is partly his fault, that on key issues he can be a bulldog, quick to temper and prone to verbal tirades against opponents.
His friends say he is passionate, driven, mercurial and willing to push the limits if he thinks he’s right, which he often does. Others, most of whom refused to be interviewed on the record, say his hard-charging nature turns vindictive when he is crossed.
And today: Doug Manchester: The Cheerleader in Chief, voiceofsandiego.org, Jan. 20, 2012. Our profile of Manchester at age 69 strived to answer two key questions: Who is Doug Manchester? And what does it mean for San Diego that he now owns the region’s largest newspaper?
Key Excerpt: Manchester has today appointed himself San Diego’s top “cheerleader.” The U-T gives him a significant platform for this civic rah-rah-rah, even if its influence has waned in the post-print age. The news staff is half of what it was five years ago. The opinion page stopped taking the strong positions that once made it a lightning rod. But in one day in November, the man who calls himself Papa Doug made America’s eighth-largest city wonder, Just how much power remains in the 143-year-old newspaper? And will he use it as a bullhorn — or a bludgeon?
Manchester says he’s entered a new phase of his life. It’s how he explains away old stories about his tirades and temper. They’re in the past, he says. His partner John Lynch, CEO of the newspaper and the L in MLIM (Manchester Lynch Integrated Media), the company that technically owns it, agrees. Lynch describes him with a phrase you don’t often hear people say about a man who’s nearing 70: “I think he’s grown and matured.” The man who’s been called “Papa” for more than two decades would have you believe he’s finally acting the part.
Rob Davis is a senior reporter at voiceofsandiego.org. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0529.
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