Fourth sale in six years could be end turmoil at Inquirer, Daily News

The newspapers face much more competition for eyeballs than they did just 10 years ago.

Six years after local investors purchased the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News for more than $500 million and vowed a turnaround, the beleaguered papers were sold for $55 million yesterday.

A group of local businessmen led by former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz and Cooper Health System chair George Norcross III will take over Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the papers and philly.com, from a collection of hedge funds. The group said it will retain publisher and CEO Greg Osberg and that no additional layoffs are expected.

“We believe that we can, with the various constituencies involved, make this a success,” Norcross said.

Media experts across the country said the sale was a bargain, but that investors will have a hard time reversing years of red ink and declining revenues.

“I certainly wouldn’t put up $55 million to buy the organization today,” said Temple associate professor Chris Harper. “The Philadelphia newspapers talk about the high quality of journalism done by the news organization, but in recent months they’ve laid off dozens of reporters. They forced one reporter to remove a story about the sale, so there’s been censorship. … I don’t think it’s a well-run ship and hasn’t been for some time.”

Poynter Institute media analyst Rick Edmonds said digital news platforms have shaken the industry’s foundations.

“The figures sort of speak for themselves that values have come way down and actually the market for acquisitions has improved some in the last nine months, maybe because the market is so [soft],” he said.

Powerful hands are taking hold

In the wake of a story that was reportedly pulled about the potential sale, the new owners vowed to sign a pledge of non-interference with editorial content.

“This is America. Everybody is entitled to write what they feel is appropriate,” managing partner Lewis Katz said.

“Everything we do is going to have to be as transparent as possible,” Norcross later added.

But Temple associate professor Chris Harper, who worked 20 years as a reporter, said he is skeptical management can remain hands off.

“I don’t see how they can possibly stay out of the editorial product and make things work,” he said.

Name game

In addition to Katz and Norcross, the new ownership group includes:
   
Cable TV magnate H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, who will serve as board chair
     
William Hankowsky, chairman and CEO of Liberty Property Trust and chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
   
Kris Singh, president and CEO of Holtec International, a nuclear energy technology company
   
Joseph Buckelew, chair of Connor Strong and Buckelew.

Turnover and over

Since 2006, the papers and philly.com have been sold four times.
   
June 2006: The McClatchy Co. bought Knight Ridder and put up some of the least-profitable papers for sale.
   
June 2006: Philadelphia Media Holdings, led by Brian Tierney, purchased the entities from McClatchy.
    
October 2010: After the company filed for bankruptcy, a group of lenders purchased the company for $139 million.
    
Yesterday: A group of local businessmen bought the papers from Philadelphia Media Network following secret negotiations.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels Kansas concert, condition unknown,…

Singer Miley Cyrus was hospitalized on Tuesday night after suffering what is believed to be 'a severe allergic reaction' to antibiotics medication. The 21-year-old Bangerz…

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Local

D.A. Williams opens new unit to focus exclusively…

D.A. Seth Williams announced Tuesday that he has opened a new unit focused entirely on investigating wrongful conviction claims.

Local

BSL, El to run all night on summer…

Officials announced this week that it would institute a pilot program this summer that would keep the El operational from 5 a.m. Friday morning until midnight Monday morning starting in…

Entertainment

Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels Kansas concert, condition unknown,…

Singer Miley Cyrus was hospitalized on Tuesday night after suffering what is believed to be 'a severe allergic reaction' to antibiotics medication. The 21-year-old Bangerz…

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Here's what to do in Philly this weekend

FILM 'Through a Lens Darkly'  Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center 1400 N. American St. Free, RSVP required, 215-232-5678 www.philaphotoarts.org Join Philadelphia…

Arts

Peek behind the scenes at the Academy of…

Generations of visitors have marveled at the dioramas in the Academy of Natural Sciences, watching apprehensively at the puma perpetually poised to attack the unsuspecting…

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

NHL

Flyers must make Rangers feel their presence

Perhaps it’s the proximity of the two biggest cities in the East, because whenever these two square off the intensity seems to rise.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.

Tech

Google Glass finally goes on sale for regular…

The Google Glass finally went on sale for regular people. It only costs $1,500.