After a few weeks of speculation and the gutting of most of its editorial staff, the operations manager of LA Weekly, Brian Calle revealed its new owners in a brief online message. The lineup, mostly a list of real estate developers and lawyers appears to have more ties to Orange County than Los Angeles.
On Oct. 18 Voice Media Group announced that it had sold LA Weekly to a newly formed company called . The publication subsequently laid off all but one of its writers and the entire editorial staff.
“There is a lot of talk about who owns LA Weekly,” Calle wrote. “We’ve seen all the speculation. Is it a Russian oligarch? Is it some Trumpista? Is it Lord Voldemort?
“Rumors are rampant and the assumption is that someone bought the Weekly for some nefarious reason. But that’s not the case” Calle goes on to say.
The new ownership team was introduced (by Calle) as “a patchwork of people who care about Los Angeles, care about the community and want to once again see an incredibly relevant, thriving LA Weekly with edge and grit that becomes the cultural center of the city.”
LA Weekly’s new ownership team is made up of several investors including Brian Calle, David Welch, an L.A.-based attorney; Kevin Xu, a philanthropist and investor; Steve Mehr, an attorney and investor; Paul Makarechian, a boutique hotel developer; Mike Mugel, a real estate redeveloper; and Andy Bequer, a Southern California–based investor. And Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley’s law school, also plans to invest.
Calle previously worked as an opinion editor for the Orange County Register and 10 other daily newspapers operated the same company, Southern California News Group.
Strong Ties to Orange County
The Los Angles Times reported that Mugel and Makarechian have both donated extensively to Republican political campaigns.
Mehr is chief executive of business development consultancy WebShark360 in Irvine. Mugel is CEO of the redevelopment firm Red Mountain Group in Santa Ana. Makarechian is CEO of Makar Properties, which has a Newport Beach mailing address. Half a dozen companies in Yorba Linda and Fountain Valley are registered in Bequer’s name.
Chemerinsky used to be the dean of UC Irvine’s law school, and for years he wrote a weekly column for the Register’s opinion page, which Calle oversaw. Greenberg and Gross’ law firm has its offices in Los Angeles and Costa Mesa.
Yet Calle told the Times “almost everyone on the list has some very strong ties to L.A., whether it’s education, business or growing up here.”
Calle blamed the proliferation of digital media for LA.Weekly’s lack of relevance and content in recent times but he has long-range plans.
“As media marched forward into the digital age, however, print publications saw innumerable challenges and LA Weekly has suffered as a result. It wasn’t inevitable. It’s disheartening that the Weekly has been on a declining trajectory.”
“We have a lot of work ahead and look forward to sharing our progress — and our challenges — as we fight to keep this outstanding publication relevant, edgy, fascinating and essential not just for the next 50 years but beyond.” – Brian Calle