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Berkshire Hathaway to sell media assets to Lee Enterprises for $140m

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Via Financial Times

Berkshire Hathaway has agreed a deal to sell a portfolio of newspapers, weekly publications and web sites to news provider Lee Enterprises for $140m in cash, marking a reversal of Warren Buffett’s decade-long media buying spree.

The conglomerate is providing about $576m in long-term funding at a 9 per cent annual rate to Lee, which will use the proceeds of that refinancing to pay for the BH Media Group (BHMG), which includes a bevy of local publications, as well as The Buffalo News, which is separately owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

Mr Buffett said in a statement on Wednesday that he and business partner Charlie Munger had known and admired Lee for more than 40 years, and the company has managed BHMG’s publications under an agreement since July 2018.

“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. No organisation is more committed to serving the vital role of high-quality local news, however delivered, as Lee,” the billionaire said.

Mary Junck, Lee’s chairman, said the transaction was “compelling and transformative” for the company, refinanced its long-term debt on attractive terms and provided new revenue opportunities.

Berkshire started its decades-long interest in media with the purchase of the Buffalo Evening News in 1977. It bought US press release agency Business Wire in 2006, and started its BHMG subsidiary in late 2011.

BHMG owns the print and digital operations of 30 daily newspapers, 49 paid weekly subscriptions with digital sites, and 32 other print products, serving communities in 10 US states. It had revenues of $373.4m in 2019. Lee said the acquisition will increase its portfolio of daily newspapers to 81 from 50 and nearly double its audience size.

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