- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

OMAHA, NEB. | Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said Wednesday that it is buying the Omaha World-Herald Co. and expanding the firm’s newspaper holdings despite Mr. Buffett’s misgivings about the industry.

Mr. Buffett told the World-Herald that Berkshire agreed to pay $150 million cash and assume $50 million in debt to acquire the newspaper he has been reading since he was a child.

The deal must be approved by the Omaha World-Herald’s employee owners and other shareholders and includes daily newspapers the company owns in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Grand Island, York, Kearney, North Platte and Scottsbluff in Nebraska.

Mr. Buffett did not respond to an interview request Wednesday. Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer previously has said he would be unlikely to add to Berkshire’s newspaper investments because of the industry’s dwindling returns. Berkshire owns the Buffalo News and it has a sizable investment in The Washington Post Co.

Mr. Buffett told Berkshire shareholders two years ago that most newspapers face the possibility of unending losses because the industry has lost its essential nature.

“They were only essential to advertisers as long as they were essential to the reader, and that is changing,” Mr. Buffett said.

In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Buffett suggested the World-Herald Co. is in better shape than most newspapers.

“The World-Herald delivers solid profits and is one of the best-run newspapers in America, and we are pleased to have Terry Kroeger and his team join Berkshire Hathaway,” Mr. Buffett said

Mr. Kroeger, who is the World-Herald’s CEO, said this deal will help the newspaper raise needed capital. He said the company’s employee-ownership structure was restrictive and forced the World-Herald to repurchase stock from departing employees.

“We have repurchased the company about seven times since the employee ownership plan was put in place,” he said.

Berkshire, a multinational conglomerate holding company, owns more than 80 subsidiaries, including clothing, insurance, furniture, utility, jewelry and corporate jet companies. It also has big investments in Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.

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