Multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway announced on Wednesday it would be selling its newspapers to U.S. publisher Lee Enterprises, a sign that Berkshire owner and eccentric billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes newspapers are destined to fail sooner than anticipated.
The $140 million sale will include all 31 local daily newspapers operating underneath Berkshire, which includes Buffett’s hometown newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska. Lee Enterprises began managing the World-Herald and Charlottesville Daily Progress in Virginia in 2018, and since then the two newspapers have voted to form unions.
Lee Enterprises' acquisition of 31 more daily newspapers comes at a time when local newspapers across the country continue to struggle turning a profit as news and media becomes primarily digital. Larger national outlets, like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today, have had greater success transitioning to digital, while smaller local news outlets are closing or being absorbed by larger conglomerates.
Late in 2019, the two largest newspaper publishing companies, Gannett and New Media, merged businesses in an effort to grow large enough to stave off profit hardships. With their merger, now under the name Gannett, they effectively own 261 local daily newspapers across the country – more than triple the now-second leading publisher, Lee Enterprises.