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Lee Enterprises said Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway hired it to run its newspaper and digital operations in 30 markets starting next week. Berkshire will continue to own BH Media, the publisher of the Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald, the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald and the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch, among others.
"I love our newspapers and am passionate about the vital role they serve in our communities, " Buffett said in a statement. The Berkshire CEO added: "Lee also has led the industry in overall innovation and performance, all while faithfully fulfilling its public trust as an indispensable source for local news, information and advertising. Our missions and goals match exactly."
Lee Enterprises, based in Davenport, Iowa, publishes 46 daily newspapers and nearly 300 other publications. The partnership aims to boost readership and advertising amid declining print circulation. Shares of the company, which have a $161 million market value, jumped 18 percent on Tuesday after the deal with Buffett was announced.
"The publishing business is in transition, to be sure, but we remain positive about our future, as many print opportunities remain and digital audiences and revenue continue to grow and flourish," Mary Junck, Lee's executive chairman, said in the statement.
The five-year agreement calls for Berkshire to pay Lee $5 million a year plus a percentage of profit after certain hurdles are met. The contract does not include BH Media's television assets or The Buffalo (New York) News. Lee said the agreement gives it "flexibility to implement revenue initiatives and business transformation."
Buffett told CNBC earlier this year that be believes only two newspapers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, are assured to survive the current climate. "They have developed an online presence that people will pay for."