In what may represent a powerful vote of confidence for the ailing U.S. newspaper industry, uber-investor Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire-Hathaway, had purchased the Omaha World-Herald, the Oracle’s hometown newspaper.
Under terms of the transaction, first announced about a month ago, Berkshire paid $150 million and assumed $50 million in debt.
Joel Long, a spokesman for the World-Herald, said that shareholders -- comprising about 275 employees and retirees and the Peter Kiewit Foundation -- okayed the sale by an “overwhelming” vote.
The deal ends one of the newspaper businesses’ last significant employee-ownership plans, reported the Associated Press.
Through the acquisition, Berkshire also received daily newspapers in Kearney, Grand Island, York, North Platte and Scottsbluff in Nebraska; the Council Bluffs Nonpareil in Iowa; a number of weekly newspapers in the region; and World Marketing, a direct-mail company with operations in Omaha, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
The World-Herald has about 1,600 employees, including about 650 in Omaha. Its daily circulation is a little more than 135,000 with a Sunday circulation of about 170,000.
However, Buffet, whose company already owns the Buffalo (N.Y.) News and more than a 20 percent stake in the Washington Post Co., had earlier stated he probably wouldn’t buy more newspapers because of the inherently diminishing returns in such an investment.
Buffet now appears to have changed his mind.
According to reports, he assured World-Herald shareholders during a meeting: "I wouldn't do this if I thought this was doomed to some sort of extinction."
Upon completion of the deal, he praised the company as delivering “solid profits and is one of the best-run newspapers in America."
AP reported that Buffet, Omaha's most prominent citizen, pledged not to interfere in the newspaper’s editorial decisions.