Hedge fund Alden Global Capital has made an offer to acquire Lee Enterprises, which counts the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Roanoke Times, The (Lynchburg) News & Advance and other Virginia newspapers among the more than 70 daily papers it owns.
Alden already owns 6% of Lee’s stock. Alden sent a letter Monday to Lee’s board of directors offering to buy the rest for $24 a share, which totals around $141 million, in cash. Alden said it could complete the acquisition in four weeks.
“We believe that as a private company and part of our successful nationwide platforms, Lee would be in a stronger position to maximize its resources and realize strategic value that enhances its operations and supports its employees in their important work serving local communities,” the offer read. “Our interest in Lee is a reaffirmation of our substantial commitment to the newspaper industry and our desire to support local newspapers over the long term.”
Alden acquired Tribune papers earlier this year, which included The Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun. Alden also owns other newspapers, including The Denver Post, The Mercury News, The New York Daily News, The Orange County Register and The Boston Herald.
“Our goal is to provide valued news and information to local subscribers nationwide, led by a talented team of seasoned newspaper executives who have worked in journalism for an average of more than 30 years,” the offer read.
Alden has the reputation of significantly cutting costs in newsrooms that it acquires, including selling the newspaper's real estate and laying off a significant percentage of newsroom staff. The newspaper business has been consolidating as it struggles with a digital transition and shrinking revenues, and financial firms like Alden have taken an increasingly prominent role as owners. Newsroom jobs dropped nearly in half from 2004 to 2018, according to Pew Research, and the pandemic has exacerbated those stresses.
Charles Arms, a Lee spokesperson, wasn't immediately available for comment.
The Lee company significantly expanded in 2020 when it bought billionaire Warren Buffett's newspaper chain from Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. At the time, Buffett said, “We had zero interest in selling the group to anyone else for one simple reason: We believe that Lee is best positioned to manage through the industry’s challenges."
With Associated Press reports.