Alden acquisition threat includes more than 20 news ecosystems in NC, VA

The news ecosystem in more than 20 North Carolina and Virginia cities would shift under a proposal by Alden Capital to acquire Lee Enterprises. 

On November 22, Alden Capital announced it was submitting a bid to acquire Lee Enterprises, a media chain with 77 properties, including in Wisconsin, Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Missouri. Alden Capital, a private equity firm known for dismantling news organizations across the country, recently bought Tribune Publishing this summer, known for big regional brands Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Denver Post and more.  

The CISLM 2020 report, “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive” states that Alden Global Capital earned the nickname “Destroyer of Newspapers” for “selling off assets, cutting staff and loading papers up with so much debt that bankruptcy becomes inevitable.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth have all called out the hedge fund, according to the Report. As Durbin and Duckworth wrote in a letter prior to the Tribune acquisition, “Alden Global Capital must reverse course and put an end to policies that have hollowed out local newspapers.” 

Alden Capital was the subject of a recent scathing profile by The Atlantic journalist McKay Coppins. From the article: “’It’s not as if the Tribune is just withering on the vine despite the best efforts of the gardeners,’ Charlie Johnson, a former Metro reporter, told (Coppins) after the latest round of buyouts this summer. ‘It’s being snuffed out, quarter after quarter after quarter.’” 

A map of Lee Enterprise locations
A map of Lee Enterprise locations, from their website.

 Though Lee Enterprises has a large presence across the Midwest, its reach is noticeable in the Southeast. Out of the 113 newspapers recorded in Virginia as part of the U.S. Newspaper database, Lee Enterprise owns 13 — an 11 percent share of the state’s market. North Carolina will see a less dramatic but similar impact: Out of the 155 NC-based newspapers in the database, eight are owned by Lee Enterprises — about a four percent share.  

The local markets that could be affected:  

North Carolina  Greensboro News and Record 

Hickory Daily Record 

Independent Tribune, Concord 

Winston-Salem Journal  

McDowell News, Marion 

Mooresville Tribune 

News Herald, Morganton 

Statesville Record and Landmark  

Virginia  The Daily Progress, Charlottesville  

Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star 

Danville Register Bee/Go Dan River 

Bristol Herald Courier

Martinsville Bulletin 

Lynchburg News and Advance 

The News Virginian, Waynesboro 

Richmond Times-Dispatch 

Roanoke Times 

Smith Mountain Lake, Hardy

Culpeper Star-Exponent 

SWVA Today, Wytheville  

Franklin News-Post, Rocky Mount  

Lee Enterprise papers acquired 31 newspapers previously owned and operated by Berkshire Hathaway in January 2020, the remnants of Warren Buffett’s investment in local news. During this period of time, BH brought once-rival newspapers Winston-Salem Journal and Greensboro News & Record under the same umbrella. 

Prior to BH Media Group’s ownership, many of the NC papers were run by a chain called Media General.