Omaha editor: ‘I’ve never seen less cynicism in a room full of newspaper employees’
Executive Editor Mike Reilly describes the feeling at the paper Wednesday when it was announced billionaire Warren Buffett would be buying the organization from its employees:
“Buffett received a standing ovation from more than 200 employee shareholders after [Publisher Terry] Kroeger detailed how and why the deal had come about, leaving little doubt that the plan will win formal approval Dec. 20. In my 30 years as a journalist, I've never seen less cynicism in a room full of newspaper employees.”
Reilly writes, “This newspaper still makes good money; it's just not the cash cow it once was.”
At the meeting when the purchase was announced, Buffett said the paper was a viable investment.
"From what I see, I think The World-Herald will earn a reasonable return on the money we're laying out for it. It doesn't have a comparable future economically to certain other businesses we have. So be it."
Buffett told the paper that his familiarity with the community was important.
"Unquestionably the fact that I know this community has a great future is a factor," Buffett said. "If there's any place a newspaper will do well, it will be in a state and a city that is growing. Retailers are coming here. The city will expand over time. And it will always have a strong sense of community.
"That is key to a newspaper."
While some employees may be skeptical that Buffett will be hands-off, Omaha native and Buffalo News Publisher Stan Lipsey told the World-Herald the 81-year-old is "a dream owner."
"He loves newspapers, and he understands journalism and its importance in our democracy.''
How it happened: During a fishing trip in Alaska last summer, Berkshire Hathaway board member Walter Scott suggested to a paper trustee that Publisher Terry Kroeger talk with him. In early October they met and on Oct. 18, Scott told Kroeger, "Warren would like to buy the company." || What's next: Shareholders vote on the purchase Dec. 20, which could be completed three days later if the sale is approved.
Correction: The original Poynter.org version of this story misspelled Stan Lipsey's name.