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.