Warren Buffett exits newspaper industry
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is selling his newspaper business for $140 million, less than a decade after spending more than $200 million to acquire dozens of daily and weekly publications.
Buffett’s media unit is being sold to Lee Enterprises, headquartered in Davenport, Iowa. The portfolio includes newspapers such as the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Buffalo News and his hometown paper in Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald.
“We had zero interest in selling the group to anyone else for one simple reason: We believe that Lee is best positioned to manage through the industry’s challenges,” Buffett said in a statement Wednesday. “No organization is more committed to serving the vital role of high-quality local news, however delivered, as Lee.”
Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, will provide Lee $576 million in long-term financing to help Lee pay off its existing debts. After the deal was announced, Lee’s stock soared to its biggest one-day gain, just days after it closed at a four-year low, MarketWatch reported.
The deal puts 81 daily papers under the Lee umbrella while doubling its readership.
Buffett saw the newspaper industry as a viable investment when he made his multimillion-dollar purchase in 2012. At the time, he told shareholders that he believed “papers delivering comprehensive and reliable information to tightly-bound communities and having a sensible Internet strategy will remain viable for a long time.”
But at Berkshire’s 2018 annual conference, Buffett said the purchase didn’t have a strong negative effect on the company he has been CEO of since 1970.
“We bought all the papers at reasonable prices,” he said. “It is not a great economic consequence to Berkshire.”
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