Thursday, May 30, 2013

Warren Buffett adds to his newspaper holdings with purchase of The Roanoke Times

NewsThe Roanoke Times reported today that Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group will finalize purchase of the daily newspaper tomorrow. The purchase is not a surprise as its owner Landmark Media CEO, Frank Batten Jr. has expressed interest in divesting its holding since 2008. Landmark has owned the Times since 1969.

Buffett has said he is content with an expected 10 percent return on his newspaper purchases now numbering 29 dailies and 49 other non-daily newspapers. By buying at the right price Buffett is betting he can make a profit even as  circulation drops.

Publisher Debbie Meade is retiring and Terry Jamerson, a vice president of BH Media and publisher of the Lynchburg News and Advance will take over as publisher effective immediately.

BH Media Group past purchases include North Carolina newspapers, the Winston-Salem Journal and Richmond-based Media General in June 2012 for $142 million. That purchase included the Richmond Times-Dispatch. That was followed by the purchase of the Greensboro News & Record in January of this year.

The June purchase included newspapers in Hickory, Statesville, Mooresville, Morganton and Reidsville-Eden.

According to the NC Triad’s The Business Journal the Rockingham County newspapers The Reidsville Review, the Eden News and the Madison Messenger have shifted to the Greensboro News & Record.

Reporter Owen Covington said he expects that BH Media Group, now a major player in the Triad publishing industry, will look for opportunities to consolidate or centralize certain business functions. That could include a region wide sales staff for advertising or a single hub for back office functions serving multiple newspapers.

The Roanoke Times has scaled back on Richmond coverage shifting their Richmond Reporter to their editorial coverage. How the sharing of editorials and content with the Virginian-Pilot still owned by Landmark will be effected now that The Times will have a different owner has yet to be determined.

Associated Press content has picked up and the city beat reporter is working some Richmond coverage. Content could increase in consolidation of functions throughout Virginia considering ownership is under one umbrella in Richmond, Lynchburg and now Roanoke. As reporter Covington suggested functions could serve multiple newspapers and cut down on overhead.

As the Roanoke Free Press reported in December 9, 2012 anticipation of the Landmark divestment was a matter of time per Bratten’s comments.


December 9, 2012: One of two television stations owned by Landmark Media Enterprises who also owns The Roanoke Times has been sold to a Wisconsin company.WTVF NewsChannel 5, a CBS affiliate out of Nashville, Tenn. was one of two television stations owned by Landmark. The buyer, Journal Communications, Inc., a publically traded company (NYSE:JRN) is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They paid $215 million in cash for the NewsChannel 5 network.

The deal was inked September 4 and after receiving FCC approval closed Thursday, December 6 as reported by The Virginian-Pilot, Greensboro News & Record both also Landmark owned. Landmark still owns KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 2008 Landmark had a deal with Bonten Media Group to sell the NewsChannel 5 Network for $200 million but that deal with the New York company fell through during the financial crisis. WTVF is one of the top three CBS affiliates in the nation based on their ratings.

All of Landmarks assets including The Roanoke Times were pulled off the market in 2008. It was impossible for any interested buyer to secure credit. The sale of the TV station by Landmark is the first property they have sold since September 2008 when they sold The Weather Channel Cos. to NBC Universal for about $3.5 billion.

Media General has sold all its newspapers including the Richmond Times-Dispatch to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Media General kept their TV stations including Roanoke’s WSLS Channel 10. They celebrate 60 years of broadcasting this week.

The reported that:

“Executives at Landmark have said they hoped to sell its businesses, including The Virginian-Pilot, when the economy improves. But Rusty Friddell, executive vice president of Landmark, said Tuesday that none of them is ‘on the market at this time.’

Landmark is selling WTVF, Friddell said, because “a couple of months ago we had a number of inquiries about the Nashville station, including several from some very strong broadcast groups, so we decided to test the market.”

As reported The Virginian-Pilot,  Landmark CEO, Frank Batten Jr., said in November 2011 that Landmark properties might not be divested for at least five years. He made a similar prediction earlier during a talk at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business Executive Speaker Series. “It’s just a guess. It all depends on the economy.”

This led Mike Sutter Editor of the Greensboro – Winston-Salem – High Point Triad “The Business Journal” to question the definition of “on the market.” Sutter wondered if it meant that the Greensboro News & Recordwas for sale. Whether “on the market” or off the market available credit would drive future sales of any or all of Landmark’s assets.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business, Finance

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