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Media General sells newspapers, except Tampa Tribune, to Berkshire Hathaway

TBO.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:39 PM

TAMPA

Media General, the parent company of The Tampa Tribune, News Channel 8 and TBO.com, has announced the sale of all of its print operations - except for the Tribune - to BH Media Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.

Media General said it is in discussions with other prospective buyers for its Tampa print assets.

The sale, to BH Media Group - a subsidiary of the Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., is for $142 million in cash. Under a separate credit agreement, Berkshire Hathaway will provide Media General with a $400 million term loan and a $45 million revolving credit line. The new loan will be used to fully repay the company's existing bank debt due March 2013 and will mature in May 2020.

"Selling our newspapers represents a monumental change for us," Marshall N. Morton, president and CEO of Media General, told employees in a written statement. "We're thrilled that our newspapers will become part of Berkshire Hathaway's BH Media Group, a company with a strong commitment to local news leadership and community engagement – values we also hold dear."

The sale includes 63 dailies and weeklies in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama, in addition to digital assets, including websites and mobile and tablet applications. The newspapers also have a substantial commercial printing business.

It also comes months after Media General announced it was exploring the sale of its print operations, and positioning itself as digital and broadcast company.

"In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper," Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, said in a news release. "The many locales served by the newspapers we are acquiring fall firmly in this mold and we are delighted they have found a permanent home with Berkshire Hathaway."

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has owned the Buffalo News of New York for decades and recently bought its hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald.

World Media Enterprises, Inc., a sister company, will manage the Media General newspapers.

Buffett has defended newspapers. He has said that even though they face competition from the Internet, they will have a decent future if they continue delivering information that can't be found elsewhere and stop offering news free online.

"(The Media General) newspapers are great institutions and powerful brands in their respective markets," Terry Kroeger, president of BH Media Group, said in a news release. "We are honored to have the opportunity to work with our new colleagues as we continue to produce top-notch news and advertising products in both print and digital platforms."

Berkshire Hathaway owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including clothing, furniture and jewelry firms, but its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company's net income. Other major investments include Coca-Cola Co., General Motors, Viacom and Wal-Mart.

The sale is expected to close June 25, Morton said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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