Lee Enterprises makes $140M deal to buy Berkshire newspapers

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Lee Enterprises will buy Berkshire Hathaway’s BH Media Group publications and The Buffalo News for $140 million, the company said Wednesday.

The deal covers 30 daily newspapers in 10 states as well as 49 paid weekly publications with digital sites and 32 other print products. Among the daily papers are the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska, the Tulsa World in Oklahoma and the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina. As part of the agreement, Lee will enter into a 10-year lease for BH Media’s real estate.

Lee has been managing the BH Media publications since July 2018.

“This is a compelling and transformative transaction for Lee,” said Mary Junck, Lee’s chairman. “It both refinances our long-term debt on attractive terms and provides new revenue opportunities as well as operational synergies across an expanded portfolio.”

Warren Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and CEO, said he and his partner, Charlie Munger, have long admired Lee.

“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.

Berkshire Hathaway is providing about $576 million in long-term, 9% financing to Lee, which Lee will use to pay for the Berkshire properties and refinance Lee’s approximately $400 million in existing debt. Berkshire will be Lee’s sole lender after the deal closes.

Lee’s portfolio will grow to 81 daily papers nearly double its audience size, the company said. The deal is expected to close in mid-March.