Report: Lenfest leads bid to buy Philly newspapers

Report: Lenfest now leads local investment group bidding on Philadelphia newspapers

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Former Gov. Ed Rendell no longer leads an investment group hoping to buy Philadelphia's two largest newspapers, according to a published report.

Businessman and philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest told The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://bit.ly/wKFxOZ) that Rendell has asked him to take over as chairman of the group bidding on the Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

The group includes former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz, New Jersey Democratic power broker George E. Norcross III and Philadelphia philanthropist Raymond Perelman.

Rendell had announced last month that he led a team of high-profile newsmakers, including Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, hoping to buy Philadelphia Media Network. Rendell was not an equity partner, and it wasn't clear Thursday if he is still involved. His spokeswoman said he could not comment.

The makeup of the original investment group had raised concerns from staff and media experts that the new owners would have a vested interest in news coverage. Those concerns were furthered when editors censored subsequent news coverage about a developer who wanted to mount a rival bid for Philadelphia Media Network.

New York hedge funds paid $139 million for the company at a 2010 bankruptcy auction, topping a bid from Perelman, Lenfest and others.

Perelman, 94, who made his money in manufacturing, and Lenfest, 81, a former cable TV company owner, are major philanthropists in the Philadelphia area. Lenfest declined to comment on his role in the newspaper sale Thursday.

"Nothing is in writing," he told The Associated Press.

Perelman and Norcross told the AP this week they are bound by confidentiality agreements. Katz and Snider did not immediately return messages Thursday.

The hedge funds owners, including Alden Global Capital and Angelo Gordon, have hired Evercore Partners, a New York investment bank, to conduct the private sale. None of the three have commented on any developments.

Meanwhile, the newsrooms are in the midst of another round of buyouts and layoffs. The owners plan to cut 37 newsroom jobs by March 31.

"It's hard for people to make decisions about their futures when they don't know what the future is going to look like," Wendy Ruderman, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter at the Daily News, said.

Cartoonist Tony Auth, another Pulitzer Prize winner, is among those leaving this month. He's spent four decades at the Inquirer.

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