Inquirer, Daily News bought for $55 million by local group (UPDATED)

For the fourth time in six years, ownership of two Philadelphia newspapers has changed hands as a local group of investors agreed today to purchase the parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News and for $55 million.

The local group is led by Lewis Katz, 70, and insurance executive and Democratic leader George E. Norcross III, 56, who agreed to purchase the papers and the website from a group of hedge funds that took over the operations when they emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. In addition to the sale price, the owners will invest $10 million in working capital to operate the company.

The new owners have formed Interstate General Media LLC, but the company will still do business as Philadelphia Media Network. The company will also retain publisher and CEO Greg Osberg.

In addition to Katz and Norcross, the 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; and Joseph Buckelew, chair of Connor Strong and Buckelew.

The new owners said that no additional layoffs were planned, but emphasized their interest increasing revenue.

“This newspaper hasn’t made money for years,” Norcross said at an afternoon press conference where the new owners also addressed employees. “We believe that we can, with the various constituencies involved, make this a success.”

The group has made a commitment to non-interference with the
editorial content and Norcross said there are no immediate plans to get rid of the Daily News.

“I think the Daily News needs an opportunity. I think the Daily News can be successful,” he said.

Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia President Dan Gross said the financial investment is encouraging.

“It’s encouraging that they’ve pledged to put new revenue into the company, which is something that hasn’t happened recently,” Gross said.

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