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 Madison.com 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.’”
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
Independent Tribune, Concord
McDowell News, Marion
News Herald, Morganton
|Virginia||The Daily Progress, Charlottesville
The News Virginian, Waynesboro
Smith Mountain Lake, Hardy
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.