11 more billionaires agree to give money away – read their pledge letters

From The Wall Street Journal:

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have persuaded 11 more of their billionaire peers to promise to give away half of their wealth, including tech luminaries Gordon Moore (co-founder Intel) and Reed Hastings (co-founder Netflix).

The new 11 will join the Giving Pledge, a campaign Gates and Buffett launched in 2010 to try to kick-start a new era of American philanthropy.

From The Giving Pledge website:

The Giving Pledge is an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations.

Each person who chooses to pledge will make this statement publicly, along with a letter explaining their decision to pledge.

 

Read the pledge letters of the existing 81 members (pdf) and the new 11 (pdf). Among the names on the list: George Lucas, Ted Turner, Diane Von Furstenberg, Elon Musk, Steve Case, Dustin Moskovitz, Michael Milken, and Michael Bloomberg.

More from the organization:

At an annual event, those who take the pledge will come together to share ideas and learn from each other.

 

The first annual meeting was held in Tucson, AZ, on Cinco de Mayo – May 5, 2011, and the second was held in Santa Barbara on May 9, 2012.

 

A timeline of the pledges:

Warren Buffett buys 89 local newspapers – eschews larger publications

Warren Buffett made good Thursday on his promise to buy more newspapers, agreeing to buy 63 daily and weekly newspapers in the Southeast for $142 million from financially troubled Media General Inc. of Richmond, Va.

The newspapers, in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida, would be combined with the Omaha World-Herald Co. into a new Berkshire Hathaway Inc. division called BH Media Group. They would be managed by World Media Enterprises, a new sister company of The World-Herald.

“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” said Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire, in a press release. “The many locales served by the newspapers we are acquiring fall firmly in this mold, and we are delighted they have found a permanent home with Berkshire Hathaway.”

And Buffett said Thursday he may buy more newspapers.

via Omaha World-Herald

 

And, a week later he followed through:

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc has announced it is purchasing 26 local papers, all locals. In a letter to the publishers, Buffett said that the papers would need to focus as much as possible on local issues rather than try to compete on national ones. More interestingly, Buffett weighed in on the perennial issue of whether newspapers can give away their news online:

“We must rethink the industry’s initial response to the Internet. The original instinct of newspapers then was to offer free in digital form what they were charging for in print. This is an unsustainable model and certain of our papers are already making progress in moving to something that makes more sense. We want your best thinking as we work out the blend of digital and print that will attract both the audience and the revenue we need.”

via The Verge

Continue reading Warren Buffett buys 89 local newspapers – eschews larger publications

The return of the newspaper barons – very rich (and political) owners

Folks with several hundred million dollars and outspoken opinions have been buying up newspapers. The Omaha Herald, San Diego Union Tribune, Portland Press Herald, and Philadelphia Inquirer.

At the end of last year, Warren E. Buffett bought The Omaha World-Herald through his company, Berkshire Hathaway. This would be the same Mr. Buffett who told his annual shareholder meeting in 2009 that newspapers faced “unending losses” and that he would not buy most of them “at any price.” Yet there he was, ponying up $200 million for a relatively small regional newspaper in Berkshire Hathaway’s hometown.

And he is not alone. Douglas F. Manchester, a very rich developer, bought The San Diego Union Tribune at about the same time, for a reported $110 million. At the end of last month, S. Donald Sussman, a hedge fund manager and philanthropist who is married to a congresswoman, Chellie Pingree, bought a stake in the company that owns The Portland Press Herald in Maine.

And then word came at the beginning of last week that a group of very rich, very influential Philadelphia businessmen — including George E. Norcross III, a Democratic power broker in Southern New Jersey, and Lewis Katz, the parking magnate — bought the Philadelphia Media Network, which owns The Inquirer, The Daily News and Philly.com.

via NY Times

What does this mean?

If you pull back a few thousand feet, you can see newspapers coming full circle. Before World War II, newspapers were mostly owned by political and business interests who used them to push an agenda.

People like William Randolph Hearst and Robert McCormick wielded their newspapers as cudgels to get their way. It was only when newspapers began making all kinds of money in the postwar era that they were professionalized and infused with editorial standards.

“We are going back to a form of ownership that dominated in an earlier era,” said Alan D. Mutter, a newspaper and technology consultant. “As newspapers become less impressive businesses, people are going to buy them as trophies or bully pulpits or some other form of personal expression.”

“People just have to be aware that other agendas exist”