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Iowa-based Lee Enterprises announced Wednesday that it is buying Berkshire Hathaway newspaper operations, including the Waco Tribune-Herald.

It is the third sale of Waco’s daily newspaper since 2009. Berkshire Hathaway, headed by billionaire Warren Buffett, bought the paper from Robinson Media LLC in 2012 following ownership by Cox Enerprises that began in 1976.

Tribune-Herald publisher Jim Wilson said he does not expect the ownership change to affect news delivery, ad sales or staffing.

“There’s a lot of newspaper consolidation going on,” he said. “It will continue. It should have absolutely no effect on what we do here, gathering news and selling advertising.”

Kevin Mowbray, president and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises, said Berkshire Hathaway will finance all debt.

The deal adds 31 local daily news publications to the company’s holdings. Those include the Omaha World-Herald, Tulsa World, Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Buffalo News and The Eagle of Bryan-College Station, as well as the Tribune-Herald, which has served Waco since 1892.

In 2018, Lee Enterprises, which is based in Davenport, Iowa, announced it would take over management of the World-Herald and other papers that had been assembled into the BH Media Group.

In the three years through the end of 2018, employment in BH newspaper units fell 23%, to 3,685, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday’s announcement.

Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman and CEO, said, “My partner Charlie Munger and I have known and admired the Lee organization for over 40 years. They have delivered exceptional performance managing BH Media’s newspapers and continue to outpace the industry in digital market share and revenue.

“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.”

A press release from Lee Enterprises states Lee is acquiring BH Media Group’s publications and The Buffalo News for $140 million in cash.

“Berkshire Hathaway is providing approximately $576 million in long-term financing to Lee at a 9% annual rate,” according to the press release. “The proceeds from the Berkshire financing will be used to pay for the acquisition, refinance Lee’s approximately $400 million of existing debt and provide enough cash on Lee’s balance sheet to allow for the termination of Lee’s revolving credit facility. Subsequent to the deal closing, Berkshire Hathaway will be Lee’s sole lender.”

In the 2018 account of the agreement putting Lee in charge of the management of BH Media, World-Herald reporter Steve Jordon noted that BH Media accounted for a tiny fraction of Berkshire Hathaway’s $242 billion in revenue.

Lee’s portfolio includes newspapers in St. Louis; Madison, Wisconsin; Davenport, Iowa; Billings, Montana; Bloomington, Illinois; and Tucson, Arizona.

The addition of the BH Media newspapers will increase Lee’s portfolio of daily papers from 50 to 81, and it will nearly double its audience size.

Mary Junck, Lee’s chairman, said, “This is a compelling and transformative transaction for Lee. It both refinances our long-term debt on attractive terms and provides new revenue opportunities as well as operational synergies across an expanded portfolio.

“We have enjoyed a strong, long-term relationship with Berkshire Hathaway, which has been a significant investor across our capital structure for years. As manager of BH Media for the past 18 months, we have developed a deep knowledge of these properties and tremendous respect for their operators. We know first-hand the power this acquisition brings for further accelerating our industry-leading digital revenue growth while maintaining our focus on delivering high-quality local news.

“We look forward to capturing the tremendous value of this transaction for readers, advertisers and shareholders.”

Kevin Cole of the Omaha World-Herald and the Tribune-Herald staff contributed to this story.

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