Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. disclosed a stake in Lee Enterprises Inc. as the billionaire investor bets on community newspapers.
Buffett’s firm had 1.66 million shares as of March 31, valued at about $2.1 million, Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said in a regulatory filing today. Berkshire withheld information about the stake on May 15 when the company disclosed other holdings in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm said today that its request to keep the Lee information confidential was denied.
Buffett has been increasing investments in newspapers, buying the Omaha World-Herald last year and striking a deal in May to acquire 63 publications including the Richmond Times-Dispatch of Virginia from Media General Inc. Davenport, Iowa-based Lee emerged from Chapter 11 proceedings in January and has more than 40 papers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Our future depends on remaining the primary source of information in certain subjects of great importance to our readers,” Buffett wrote in a letter to publishers and editors of Berkshire’s daily papers last month. “Technological change has caused us to lose primacy in various key areas, including national news, national sports, stock quotations and employment opportunities. So be it. Our job is to reign supreme in matters of local importance.”
Lee climbed 25 cents to $1.40 in extended trading at 4:31 p.m. in New York. The company advanced 63 percent this year through today’s close.
Buffett obtained the stake as Berkshire bought loans in the company, the Wall Street Journal reported in April. The billionaire didn’t return a message for comment left with an assistant.
“Berkshire Hathaway is a very successful, very smart investor,” Daniel Hayes, a spokesman for Lee, said in a phone interview. “We’re gratified he’s taken an interest in Lee Enterprises and in our industry.”