Warren Buffett has pledged a “hands-off” policy at Berkshire Hathaway Inc. newspapers and called for their editors and publishers to make their papers indispensable to anyone who cares about their city or town.
“You should treat public policy issues just as you have in the past,” he wrote in a letter e-mailed Wednesday to publishers and editors of the daily newspapers that Berkshire owns and those it plans to buy from Media General Inc.
“I have some strong political views, but Berkshire owns the paper I don't. And Berkshire will always be non-political,” he wrote.
Buffett said he does not use Berkshire's resources to speak on behalf of the company's 600,000-plus shareholders.
“I am 81, and many of you will outlive me as an employee of Berkshire,” he wrote. “But I am sure my successors will follow the ideas I am laying out in this letter. (Indeed, letting them know of this hands-off principle is a secondary reason for my writing this letter.)”
He also noted, “Berkshire buys for keeps.”
Berkshire plans to buy 63 daily and weekly newspapers next month from Media General for $142 million, while also helping the company to restructure its debt. When the purchase closes, Berkshire will own 26 daily newspapers, counting its Buffalo (N.Y.) News and the Omaha World-Herald Co.
Berkshire probably will buy more small- and mid-sized newspapers, he said.
“I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future,” he wrote. “That will mean maintaining your news hole — a newspaper that reduces its coverage of the news important to its community is certain to reduce its readership as well — and thoroughly covering all aspects of area life, particularly local sports.”
He said no one has stopped reading “half-way through a story that was about them or their neighbors.”
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