Billionaire Warren Buffett’s investment company is buying five South Carolina newspapers and 58 others, it was announced today.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has agreed to buy the 63 papers in the Carolinas, Virginia and Alabama from Media General Inc. for $142 million.
In the Palmetto State, the deal includes the Morning News, a daily paper in Florence, as well as smaller community newspapers serving Hartsville, Lake City, Hemingway, Marion and Mullins.
The larger papers Berkshire Hathaway is picking up from Media General are the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Winston-Salem Journal.
“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” Buffett said today in a statement. “The many locales served by the newspapers we are acquiring fall firmly in this mold, and we are delighted they have found a permanent home with Berkshire Hathaway.”
Excluded from the deal were the Media General’s papers in Tampa, Fla., including the Tampa Tribune. Media General said it is in talks with other potential buyers for that group.
Buffett’s company has owned the Buffalo News of New York for decades and recently bought its hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska.
Buffett has defended newspapers. He has said that even though they face competition from the Internet, they will have a decent future if they continue delivering information that can’t be found elsewhere and stop offering news free over the Internet.
The acquired newspapers will be part of BH Media Group and managed by World Media Enterprises Inc.
Marshall N. Morton, president and chief executive officer of Richmond, Va.-based Media General, called the sale “a monumental change for us.”
“We’re very happy that our newspapers will become part of Berkshire Hathaway’s BH Media Group, a company with a strong commitment to local news leadership and community engagement,” Morton said.
He said the transaction will accelerate Media General’s plan to focus on its broadcast television business. Locally, the company owns WCBD-TV, the Mount Pleasant-based NBC affiliate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report