A group of investors has agreed to buy the Philadelphia Inquirer and related media assets for $55 million — less than half the price paid at a 2010 bankruptcy auction.
The deal announced Monday for Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, is the fourth ownership change for the media properties in less than six years.
The Inquirer, the 15th largest US daily, reported that the new investor group is led by businessman Lewis Katz, 70, and insurance executive and Democratic leader George Norcross III, 56.
Katz and Norcross will be managing partners of Interstate General Media LLC, the new parent company.
Other investors include philanthropist H.F. Lenfest, 81, Holtec International Corp. chief executive officer Krishna Singh, 64, Liberty Property Trust chief executive William Hankowsky, 61, and Joseph Buckelew, chairman of an insurance brokerage.
Lenfest will be chairman of the board of the group, to be called Philadelphia Media Network.
The deal underscored the turmoil in the media business, with newspapers roiled by declining circulation and a shift of advertiser dollars to the Internet.
A recent report by the Pew Research Center said advertising revenues industrywide decreased 7.3 percent in 2011, to $23.9 billion, from a peak in 2000 of $48.7 billion.
New York hedge fund managers Alden Global Capital and Angelo, Gordon & Co. had bought the group in a hotly contested bankruptcy auction in 2010 for $139 million.
They had reportedly been seeking $100 million in the sale which concluded Monday.
The six new owners will sign a pledge that they will not interfere with the newsroom operations.
The Inquirer and Daily News were owned by Knight Ridder Inc., a newspaper chain sold in 2006 to The McClatchy Co., which promptly spun off some of the assets including the two Philadelphia dailies.
In June 2006, local investor Brian Tierney bought the dailies for $515 million in cash. But the group filed for bankruptcy in 2009.