A Reprieve or Just a Bargaining Move?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

As was reported here earlier, Alden Golden Capital has made a move to buy Lee Enterprises, the owner of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and nine other newspapers in this state. Such a move would be a disaster for the residents of the communities served by those papers. Alden has a reputation for buying up media companies, selling off their assets, laying off staff, and, as a result, seriously crippling the ability of the newspapers to cover their communities.

Lee Enterprises has seemingly fought back. It did not accept Alden’s original offer and its board has adopted a “poison pill” plan that could dilute shares if Alden starts buying them up without its consent. In its latest move, the Lee board has rejected, on technical grounds, Alden nominees for three board slots.

But not all the news is encouraging. According to the RTD, the Lee Enterprises board pledged a ‘careful review’ of Alden’s offer to determine the best move for itself and shareholders.” It should be noted that the share price of Lee Enterprises stock closed Friday higher than Alden’s offer. It sounds as if the Lee board is holding out for a better price.

My Soapbox

The statement by Lee Enterprises is telling. The board is looking to determine “the best move for itself and shareholders.” There is no mention as to the best interests of journalism, of the communities served by its newspapers, or its employees. The members of the board are looking out for the interests of shareholders, of which they are major ones. They are looking to maximize their own profits.

This is one of the ugly features of corporate capitalism. The financial interests of shareholders take precedence over everything else, with the welfare of the larger community to be damned. It is often said in the movies and TV that “every man has his price.” I hope I am wrong about the Lee Enterprises board members and that they don’t have a price.

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24 responses to “A Reprieve or Just a Bargaining Move?”

  1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    The short term answer is antitrust actions by local, state, or federal governments as well as citizens, who are empowered to sue under both state and federal antitrust law. This proposed acquisition is unlikely to survive such opposition.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Nope. You have some of the worst “big government” instincts at times. You might as well fight the sunrise. I look around my high-end neighborhood in the AM and see few papers on the driveways. Neither of my kids subscribes, and they grew up with daily papers “black, white and read all over.” That business model is dead, and the corpse is being picked.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        Perhaps, Steve.
        – I offered a legal vehicle for attempting to stop this acquisition.
        – Your position is that such attempts are ultimately doomed because the business model is dead.

        Both are valid observations. I certainly do not disagree with yours. But there can be a new business model.

        Slowing the total destruction of local investigative reporting in Virginia is I think worth an attempt to use the courts and the federal regulartory agencies do so.

        If the edifice of local reporting that holds government and big interests that corrupt it accountable is to fall, I want to be under it.

        We have corruption in the affairs of government now. Without the press, it will accelerate until democracy itself fails.

        That is the reason that freedom of the press is in the very first amendment to the Constitution.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          I don’t think this acquisition would fall under the antitrust law. There is no anti-competitive effect. The RTD has no competitor in the Richmond market and Alden’s acquisition of Lee Enterprises would not change that. One could make the argument that the consolidation of the news outlets on a national level into a few large conglomerates tends to create monopolies on editorial content and news coverage. That would be a novel argument with which the courts have not dealt. I don’t know of anyone who has the deep pockets and will to fund such a lawsuit.

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Huh, a penguin in a knife fight? A nun falling down the stairs?

        What’s red and white on the outside and gray inside?

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    So I wonder if there are Conservatives willing to do for the news what Bezos has done for the WaPo?

    It’s not like they don’t have the financial means – they support all kinds of “alternative” media these days, why not Community Media where a lot of their base live?

    Win. Win!

    I now subscribe both to the FLS and RTD and there are some obvious ways these papers work in format and style as well as each of them cross-publishing articles from each other and other Lee papers.

    So – they’ve made some cost cuts… by using similar platforms and no doubt have consolidated management functions.

    Still , where are the Conservatives? This is an opportunity for them both symbolic and practical.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      It was my hope this outlet would evolve and look and operate more like Virginia Mercury (uh, not conservative) or the new Cardinal out Roanoke way. But I’m not willing to put in 50 hours a week at this point. Something may yet emerge that has enough readership reach to matter.

      Frankly, IMHO the turning point came when Jim and I were f*&%d by the VPAP board, which could have had an outlet to share through VA News just as good as Virginia Mercury, just as well produced, but our philosophy dooms us and for years now they have promoted and propped up a left wing outlet with no balance. When those jerks did that, the heart went out of me. Not an accident, I’m sure.

      I really don’t see any point in doing straight news for Bacon’s Rebellion and competing for readers against the screaming about race, rebel statues, college indoctrination and masks and vaccines, and then being subjected to the Devil’s Chorus of you libs that wait to ambush anything I write. This ain’t the place for that now.

      1. vicnicholls Avatar

        I told off VPAP and haven’t used them for any news since then. Off the Rebellion, and I’ll off you. Works both ways.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Good-bye local news! Conglomerate newspapers are to newspapers as conglomerate radio stations are to radio stations.

  4. John Harvie Avatar
    John Harvie

    “The financial interests of shareholders take precedence over everything else, with the welfare of the larger community to be damned. ”

    There wouln’t be a Lee Enterprises or Media General or Gannett or RTD if some folks hadn’t risked their assets to bring those businesses into existance. God help us if we’d waited for “government” to do it for us.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      could not agree MORE! There ARE philanthropists even in “news”. Pretty sure Bezos is not “calculating” like Lee or Alden Golden are , either.

      And I still think there are a ton of wealthy Conservatives out there that could also do like Bezos.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I thought that Warren Buffet would be just such a conservative savior when he bought the RTD and other newspapers. Berkshire Hathaway did not need those papers to produce a profit. But, in the end, the bottom line ruled.

      2. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        The MyPillow Guy is helping to keep Fox News alive. 🙂 I keep my eye on The Center Square, but it does a lot of re-writes and not much real reporting. https://www.thecentersquare.com/

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          yes, and that’s disgusting on several levels…. ;-)…………

          in that unlike Bezos who hasn’t got much at all to say about politics much less with regard to WaPo, the My Pillow guy is hard over… and makes no secret of his politics and he’s also involved in funding “stop the steal’ and other things.

          As bad as WaPO is accused of being biased, they can’t hold a candle to FOX and my pillow.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I agree with you. Of course, government should not be in the news business. A large function of news is to keep tabs on government. But, with this consolidation and loss of newspapers, we will be diminishing the capacity to report on government.

  5. SudleySpr Avatar

    Unless we are willing to submit to the censorship of Facebook and Twitter, we need to correct the trend to consolidating media outlets into the hands of few. The 1981 deregulation of broadcast stations was an error. This has allowed the voices in media to be boiled down to just a few. Cumulous is a good example, the central office has directed a narrative on several subjects. (I’ll leave out what narratives this time.) The solution to the “bad media” is to regulate ownership of media outlets to one broadcast station or newspaper per owner. The new tech media should be regulated per state, by definition the internet makes Twitter and Facebook available in every state. These tech outlets should decentralize their editorial staff by state. Problem solved, the “dirty media” is cleaned up because the number of voices will greatly grow.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      The very last thing we need if the Govt REQUIRING Facebook and other social media to censor – based on FB criteria or even worse on Govt criteria.

      However, what to do about outright lies, misrepresentions, disinformation, and conspiracy theories is a real issue… way more people will believe this stuff than we ever thought AND some actually do act on it.

      1. SudleySpr Avatar

        I meant break up the editorial staff by state. Not requiring FB or anyone to censor.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I’ve been accused of being “slow’ and “dense” so you may have to expand on what you mean.

          Right now, we are demanding that FB and Twitter “vett’ their subscriber content for truth and facts. Right?

          1. SudleySpr Avatar

            FB Twitter etc censor now, one “voice” standard for what is acceptable for the world as far as I am aware. Similar to one entity owning all the newspapers, shoving the one editorial opinion down everyons throat.

  6. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
    Ronnie Chappell

    It is appropriate that the Board is focused on the interests of the people who have put money at risk to acquire an ownership stake in Lee’s newspapers. I believe most of the changes made by Alden Global Capital are inevitable whether the papers are sold or not. A sale only accelerates those changes and transfers the risk of eventual failure from current shareholders to a vulture capitalist with a plan for maximizing and extracting value in the near term. If the Board thinks it can do better than Alden, it should make its case to Shareholders. If not, it shouldn’t hold them hostage by issuing new stock and diluting the value of their shares.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: ” I believe most of the changes made by Alden Global Capital are inevitable whether the papers are sold or not. ”


      The conventional wisdom is that the print news business model that existed for decades is “dead”

      …. and at the same time, some of the same folks who have declared it “dead” decry the lack of “news”, “reporting” and “investigative reporting”, etc.

      It’s like we say it is “dead” but it can’t be because it is so important.

      Talk about “Cognitive dissonance” !

  7. Merchantseamen Avatar

    Break up all cable and news organizations. Breaking up mammoth corporations is not new.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Really? So you WANT the govt to dismantle the news media?

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