Lewis Katz will head the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.
Lewis Katz, a member of the executive committee of the Board of Trustees and chair of the athletics committee, led a team of six investors who purchased the Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, yesterday, April 2.
The group of six, which includes insurance executive George E. Norcross III and philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, purchased PMN for $55 million, with an additional investment of $10 million in operation costs, from a group of hedge funds that bought out the company from bankruptcy in 2010.
The team of investors will own PMN under General Media LLC, though the company will still operate under its current name. Katz and Norcross have been named managing partners, while Lenfest will act as Chairman of the group.
“A world-class city needs world-class journalism to tell its story, and that’s what we have at The Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com,” Katz said in a press release. “These newspapers have a historic tradition of outstanding journalism in our city, and we want to preserve that tradition and marry it to the exciting digital opportunities that are revolutionizing the news business.”
Katz was a part of the discussion of potential buyers of PMN since it was reported at the end of January that the company could be headed for sale. Former Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Flyers’ owner Ed Snider were reportedly working on a team with Katz, before Rendell asked Lenfest to take over as chairman of the group.
On Feb. 17, 300 employees of the Inquirer and Daily News signed a public statement insisting that news coverage will not be compromised or censored under new ownership.
“Regardless of who emerges as our new owners, they must guarantee that the integrity of our reporting will never be sacrificed to serve their private or political interests,” the statement read. “One thing must be non-negotiable in any sale: our bond of trust with our readers.”
Former Temple adjunct professor and alumnus Craig McCoy, who works as an investigative reporter with the Inquirer, penned the petition with fellow reporter Joe Tanfani.
“Even before any sale, we’ve seen a pattern here where stories are being inappropriately altered or killed,” McCoy told The Temple News on Feb. 20. “Our editors have assured us that that won’t happen again, so we hope those are isolated episodes, but it put us on guard and now, going forward we have to make sure our news report is straightforward and is not in any way biased or reflect the interests of our owners, whether it be political or financial.”
Katz, along with the other five new owners of PMN, has agreed to sign a pledge that the ownership of the company will not interfere with newsroom operation.
“Journalists speak truth to power, hold our leaders accountable and keep readers informed about the important issues of the day,” Katz said. “We depend upon the news to tell us about the issues that impact the future of our region, and we trust them to tell us the truth.”
At a press conference, Katz said, “I will give all of my effort and all of my energy with whatever brain power I have left to try and turn this enterprise into not only a wonderful journalistic experience, but also a sound, financially successful business.”
General Media, LLC’s purchase was the fourth ownership change that the network has undergone in the past six years.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com.