Iowa-based Lee Enterprises has closed its acquisition of Berkshire Hathaway's newspaper operations, which were owned by billionaire Warren Buffett.
The sale nearly doubles Lee’s audience size, adding 30 daily newspapers, 49 paid weekly publications and their websites, and 32 other print products.
Lee's portfolio now includes 77 publications in 77 communities across the U.S.
The newspapers primarily serve smaller U.S. cities, such as The Buffalo News in New York, Tulsa World in Oklahoma, Winston-Salem Journal and Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina, Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska, Buffett's hometown newspaper.
The transaction is expected to drive an 87% increase in revenue, according to a press release.
As previously announced, Berkshire Hathaway provided about $576 million in long-term financing to Lee, at a 9% annual rate, which was used to pay for the acquisition and refinance Lee’s existing debt.
Berkshire Hathaway is now Lee’s sole lender.
“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 stated, when announcing the deal back in January.
Lee Enterprises chairman Mary Junck said the deal also enables “more flexibility as we continue to invest in our business with a digital-first mindset.”
Kevin Mowbray, president and CEO, added: “This transaction unlocks new opportunities to grow our top line and further accelerate our digital transformation.”
Lee Enterprises and Berkshire Hathaway have worked together since mid-2018, when Berkshire hired Lee to run all of its newspapers, except The Buffalo News, which Buffett has owned for more than 40 years.