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Lee Enterprises in the Cross-Hairs

Alden Capital continued its drive to own as much of the American newspaper industry as it can with a bid Monday to acquire Lee Enterprises, a publicly traded chain of 75 daily newspapers and several hundred other outlets.

Lee’s largest papers include the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Arizona Daily Star, The Buffalo News, the Omaha World-Herald and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The latter three were part of Warren Buffett’s BH Media, acquired by Lee in January 2020 when the billionaire decided to exit the business.

Alden said that it was prepared to close the transaction as soon as four weeks.

Yesterday Rick Edmonds, for Poynter, had the early news.

 


Lee Enterprises markets

 

Today From Joshua Benton and Nieman Lab:

Major moves in the past 11 years:

It was pretty clear this day would come. Lee is the biggest acquisition target left out there, with papers in 77 markets across 26 states — not to mention “nearly 350 weekly and specialty publications.” Adding it to its MediaNews/Digital First/Tribune menagerie should bring it close to Gannett in size, if not quite there.

At some previous companies that Alden has tried to acquire, there’s been resistance — from management, employees, civic leaders, or all of the above. Remember, it tried to eat Gannett in 2019, but the company successfully fought back — though that resistance pushed it into the arms of another suitor, GateHouse. Tribune reporters battled valiantly, if ultimately unsuccessfully, to keep Alden away.

But frankly, I’d be surprised if Lee put up much of a fight this time.

After this deal — and whatever aftershocks follow it, as the boards of smaller chains see themselves on the outside of a two-horse race — we’ll be left with Gannett, Alden Global Capital, and then everybody else.

And Gannett is selling — “confident that we will be able to execute on $100-125 million in additional asset sales this year” — while Alden is buying. With cash.

 

Also today, reporting for Poynter, is Kavahn Mansouri:

Jeff Gordon, president of the union that represents staffers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, echoed Cooper’s sentiments.

“Lee has run its properties pretty tightly to say the least, but Alden will take it to the next level,” he said. “Alden does not look at these properties in any sort of overly long-term view. They just want to get some money out of it and move on.”

Kathy Kiely, the Lee Hills Chair of free-press studies at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, called Alden’s proposed purchase of Lee a “disaster for democracy.”

She said the practice of hedge funds buying newspapers started more than a decade ago when newspapers had many assets like buildings, vehicles for deliveries and more.

However, Kiely said the motive behind hedge funds like Alden’s attraction to local newspapers has become less and less clear as those assets have disappeared or been sold off.

 

Lee Enterprises has at least four staff editorial cartoonists.


David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star 


Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News


Phil Hands,Wisconsin State Journal


Dan Martin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

Community Comments

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#1 Mike Peterson
November/24/2021
@ 5:04 am

I’ve worked for both. They deserve each other.

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