Buffett's firm buys Roanoke, Va., Times newspaper

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway buys The Roanoke, Va., Times for undisclosed price

Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is adding The Roanoke, Va., Times to its growing group of small and medium-sized newspapers.

Berkshire said Thursday it will acquire The Times from Landmark Media Enterprises on Friday. It will be Berkshire's 30th daily newspaper.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Berkshire says The Roanoke Times has daily circulation of 76,000 and Sunday circulation of 90,000.

Buffett did not immediately respond to a message Thursday, but earlier this month he told shareholders that Berkshire should earn decent returns of about 10 percent on the newspapers because it is buying them at such cheap prices.

But he said newspaper earnings will keep declining, and the newspapers won't make much difference to Berkshire's overall profits because they are relatively small part of the conglomerate.

Outsell Inc. media analyst Ken Doctor said Buffett is clearly making a long-term bet on these newspapers, but it's not entirely clear how Berkshire plans to deal with continued declines in print advertising.

"They're not announcing many plans," Doctor said. "The question is what sort of turnaround strategy they're going to use."

Most of Berkshire's newspapers are overseen by executives at the Omaha World-Herald as part of BH Media Group, but the Buffalo News, which Berkshire has owned for decades, operates separately.

Earlier this year, Berkshire bought the Greensboro, N.C., News & Record from Landmark, so this isn't the first deal between the two companies. Landmark is a private company controlled by Frank Batten Jr.

"We are pleased that The Times will be joining a company such as BH Media that is committed to the future of newspapers," said Michael Abernathy, president of Landmark's publishing division.

Besides daily newspapers, Berkshire owns 40 other newspapers that publish less frequently and other monthly publications and regional magazines. The growing media chain owns newspapers in Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida.

Berkshire bought 63 Media General newspapers last year for $142 million to launch its newspaper unit. At the end of 2012, Berkshire did close the Manassas News & Messenger, a Virginia newspaper, because it was struggling to compete in the Washington suburbs.

But Berkshire has bought several more newspapers since that closing.

Doctor said Berkshire's newspaper purchases, combined with the refinancing deal Buffett's company offered to Lee Enterprises, have made the company a major player in the newspaper industry.

Doctor said Berkshire is a likely buyer of two of the Tribune Co. smaller newspapers once the entire chain is sold. He said both The Allentown, Pa., Morning Call and The Daily Press of Newport News, Va., would fit well with Berkshire's other community newspapers.

Buffett has said newspapers that are the primary source of information about their communities will continue delivering decent returns. Buffett, who is Berkshire's chairman and chief executive, has said he won't try to influence the newspapers' editorial policies.

Newspapers are still a relatively small part of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns an assortment of more than 80 subsidiaries and holds major stakes in companies like Coca-Cola Co., Wells Fargo and IBM.

Berkshire's subsidiaries include Geico and General Reinsurance, BNSF railroad, MidAmerican Energy utility, Fruit of the Loom, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Dairy Queen and many others.

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Follow Josh Funk online at www.twitter.com/funkwrite

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Online:

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.: www.berkshirehathaway.com

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