Lee Enterprises Stock Soars on Deal to Manage Berkshire Hathaway Media

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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) owns more than 100 newspapers and digital media properties, including Warren Buffett’s hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald, which the company purchased in 2011. Newspaper owner Lee Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: LEE) announced Tuesday morning that it will manage Berkshire newspaper and digital properties in 30 markets, including Omaha, beginning July 2.

According to Lee President and CEO Kevin D. Mowbray, Lee will be paid a fixed fee of $5 million annually, along with a “significant percentage of profits over benchmarks.” The management agreement has an initial term of five years.

In addition to the media outlets included in the deal, Berkshire owns 47 weekly newspapers with complementary websites and 32 other print products. Most are included in the company’s BH Media Group.

Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett commented:

I love our newspapers and am passionate about the vital role they serve in our communities. Although the challenges in publishing are clear, I believe we can benefit by joining efforts. Lee Enterprises’ growth in digital market share and revenue has outpaced the industry. 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.

Lee’s executive chair, Mary Junck, said:

This is an attractive strategic alliance for Lee, as it enables us to generate more cash flow, speed our debt reduction, enhance our industry leadership and further advance our abilities as we introduce our digital and print strategies at BH Media properties. … 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.

Lee’s shares jumped nearly 60% in Tuesday’s premarket session before slipping back to a gain of about 30% at $3.15 a share, well above the top of the 52-week range of $1.80 to $2.75.