Warren Buffett to build media empire

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s firm Berkshire Hathaway announced Thursday it would be purchasing 63 newspapers from Media General for $142 million.

Media General is a regional media company that owns multiple newspapers and 18 local television stations in the Southeastern United States and was formerly known as Richmond Newspapers.

Most of Media General’s newspapers and television stations are located in Florida and the Carolinas.

The sale will include newspapers such as the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia), the Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina) and the Morning News of Florence (South Carolina).

Media General is looking to sell off many of its newspaper operations, including its flagship newspaper, the Tampa Tribune of FloridaThe Tampa Tribune of Florida was not one of the papers purchased by Berkshire Hathaway.

The announcement comes as a bit surprise as Buffett is on record telling investors that newspapers faced unending losses because of their essential nature in 2009.

Buffett also said he would never buy most U.S. newspapers ‘at any price’ just three years ago, according to the Daily Mail. But Buffett has recently been defending newspapers as essential to their local communities.

Berkshire Hathaway is also feeling charitable suddenly, offering Media General $445 million in loans to pay off their debts in return for a 19.9 percent share in the company.

“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” Buffett said in a statement Thursday.

Buffett also said that newspapers will have a ‘decent’ future if reporters can come up with news that cannot be found elsewhere, but newspapers also need to stop delivering news for free online.

Other media acquisitions by the suddenly bullish Berkshire Hathaway in the past include the Buffalo News (New York) and the purchase of the Omaha World-Herald (Nebraska) in December.

Buffett’s company is also the largest stakeholder in The Washington Post, with a 23 percent sharehold.

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