Inquirer, Daily News sold for $88 million

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Lewis Katz and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest won the English-style auction for Interstate General Media’s publishing properties Tuesday, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com. They paid $88 million, David Sell reports.

Katz and Lenfest told the court they were “trying to right what we think was a wrong” when Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow was fired. He was later reinstated by a judge. “I certainly hope to stay, and that – of course – is up to our owners,” Marimow told Poynter in an email. Lenfest will serve as interim publisher, the new owners told staffers.

“[W]e are happy for the company’s employees, readers and advertisers that this issue is now resolved,” said now-former owners George E. Norcross, William P. Hankowsky and Joseph E. Buckelew in a statement. “We wish Messrs. Katz and Lenfest the best of luck moving forward.”

Their full statement:

PHILADELPHIA: The majority owners of Interstate General Media, George E. Norcross, William P. Hankowsky and Joseph E. Buckelew, issued the following statement after declining to submit a final bid in today’s court ordered auction and agreeing to sell their majority share of the parent company of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and philly.com, to the minority owners, Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest. The company was valued at $88 million in the auction. The group purchased it in 2012 for $55 million.

“Although we declined to submit a higher bid and will not purchase the shares of Interstate General Media owned by Messers. Katz and Lenfest, we are happy for the company’s employees, readers and advertisers that this issue is now resolved. It is time to return the company’s focus to journalism, and away from conflict among its owners.

We have greatly valued our time as owners of the company and are proud of the remarkable turnaround begun under our ownership. In the decade before we took over, the company had gone from generating over $500 million of revenue with 3,000 employees to generating just over $200 million and with just 2,000 full-time and temp employees. It went from making $145 million in profit to losing as much as $50,000 a day.

In the first 18 months of our group’s ownership, IGM made millions of dollars of investments in its long-term future, including provisions for improvements at the production plant, the 801 Market Street headquarters and IT across the company. The company also dramatically streamlined operations, including a focus on improvements to home delivery and reinvigorated advertising initiatives.

We believe these are just some of the reasons the company was on the path to profitability before this litigation derailed the progress it was making.

We always understood that no matter who won the auction, there was a great deal of work to be done. Now, with this chapter ended, we hope the company can return its focus to accomplishing that needed work.

We wish Messrs. Katz and Lenfest the best of luck moving forward.

To the employees, advertisers and readers, we thank you. It was an honor working with you.”

In April, Poynter wrote that a judge ordered the partnership be dissolved and “sold by an ‘English-style’ auction among partners.”

In October of last year, Poynter pulled together a timeline of events that led to the auction.

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