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Jan 29, 2020

Warren Buffett throws in the towel on his newspaper empire

David Burrows discusses Berkshire Hathaway


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Warren Buffett is getting out of the newspaper business.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. sold its BH Media unit and its 30 daily newspapers to Lee Enterprises Inc., which owns papers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for US$140 million in cash. Lee had been managing the papers for Buffett’s company since 2018, and Berkshire lent Lee the money for the purchase.

Buffett, who got a job delivering papers as a teenager and invested in the industry to capitalize on its one-time local advertising monopoly, lamented last year that most newspapers are “toast.” BH Media, which owns papers across the country, has been cutting jobs for years to cope with declining advertising revenue.

The sale will include Buffett’s hometown Omaha World-Herald, along with 49 weekly publications and a number of other print products, the companies said in a statement Wednesday. Berkshire is lending Lee US$576 million at a nine-per-cent annual rate for the purchase and to refinance other debt.