Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett has apparently given up on newspapers.
The Omaha, Nebraska-based financial company is selling its BH Media Group, which includes 30 newspapers and more than 49 paid weekly publications, and The Buffalo News, a newspaper Buffett has owned since 1977.
Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, which had managed Berkshire’s media group for the last 18 months, will pay $140 million for the assets. The financing comes from about $576 million Berkshire is loaning Lee Enterprises to refinance $400 million in long-term debt. Berkshire will become Lee’s sole lender.
Buffett said Lee Enterprises had shown an ability to outpace competitors in revenue and digital market share. “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,” he said in a statement accompanying the sale’s announcement.
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“No organization is more committed to serving the vital role of high-quality local news, however delivered, as Lee,” Buffett continued. “I am confident that our newspapers will be in the right hands going forward and I also am pleased to be deepening our long-term relationship with Lee through the financing agreement.”
A newspaper delivery boy as a teen, Buffett has been a lifelong voracious newspaper reader reading as many as five a day. But he knew the industry faced massive challenges.
“They are a fair amount worse off, and not one is bucking that trend, even in prosperous communities,” he told USA TODAY four years ago. “There’s less and less in the newspaper.”
At the time he said: “We would never sell a newspaper … I want to be the last guy standing.”
But apparently it was time for the “Oracle of Omaha” to turn the page.
The newspapers Berkshire sold to Lee Enterprises include:
- The Omaha World-Herald
- Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal
- Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record, The News
- The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.)
- The Tulsa (Okla.) World
- The Florence (S.C.) Morning News
- The Eagle in Bryan-College Station (Texas)
- Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald
- Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.