Billionaire investor Warren Buffett buys newspapers every day, the hometown daily included, but on Wednesday he dispensed with the single-issue price and bought the whole company instead.
Buffett's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway
The World-Herald, which calls itself the last major employee-owned paper in the country, splashed the news across its website, with a picture of the paper's publisher introducing Buffett to the staff. It is 80 percent owned by employees and 20 percent by the Peter Kiewit Foundation.
The news appears to have stunned the reporters, for whom Buffett was one of the biggest subjects of their business coverage. The paper's designated Buffett reporter even did a weekly online chat about Buffett called Warren Watch.
I don't think anyone's going to be covering anything today. Everyone seems to be to busy talking about the Buffett news, World-Herald reporter Roseann Moring said on her Twitter feed in response to a request for coverage of another item.
With average daily circulation of just over 135,000, it is one of the larger papers in the country. In a statement, the World-Herald Co said Buffett's ownership would make it easier for the paper to raise money while preserving local control.
One newsroom employee, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said Wednesday's announcement was positive.
It's obviously good news for the paper because we were facing a pretty heavy load of debt to pay to older stockholders (as they retired).
This is good news for the employees. I think it is good long-term news for the paper, which is in good shape, but was facing some pretty heavy bills down the road.
Berkshire is no stranger to the newspaper business. The company bought the Buffalo News in New York in 1977 and has operated it since, though Buffett said in 2009 his owning the paper was not entirely rational.
Buffett was also a long-time board member of the Washington Post Co
Buffett has said that U.S. newspapers face years of nearly unending losses because they lack a sustainable business model.
Advertising revenue and circulation at many U.S. papers have fallen in the past several years as people turn to the Internet for free news and their advertising needs, forcing some newspapers out of business and some publishers into filing for bankruptcy or laying off thousands of employees.
The deal also adds to Buffett's stable of local businesses. Though his focus is usually national or global, he owns a number of large Omaha brands, including the sprawling Nebraska Furniture Mart and the jeweller Borsheim's.
(Reporting By Ben Berkowitz. Additional reporting by Michael Avok in Omaha. Editing by Robert MacMillan)