A New Group Of Old, Rich Guys Gets A Turn To Buy Philly Newspapers And Run Them Into The Ground

INQUIRER: A group headed by the businessman Lewis Katz and the philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest has entered into an exclusive agreement to negotiate for the purchase of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, according to sources close to the process. Lenfest, in an interview Wednesday, said he was asked by former Gov. Ed Rendell to take over as chairman of a group of political and corporate leaders assembled to bid on Philadelphia Media Network Inc. (PMN). The group also now apparently includes Raymond G. Perelman, the Philadelphia philanthropist whose individual bid to buy the media outlets last month was rebuffed. His associates said Wednesday that he had signed a nondisclosure agreement, indicating he was part of an active bidding group. […] The current composition of the group of potential buyers appears to be in flux. Lenfest said in an interview Wednesday that Rendell had invited him to join as chairman, leaving Rendell’s status unclear. MORE

PHILLY MAG: A lifelong media executive with stints at U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek and the tech site CNET, Greg Osberg [pictured, right] speaks in a language that’s jargon-heavy. He talks airily about his “vision of the future,” peppering his sentences with new-media corporate-ese like “content delivery platforms,” “digital media solutions” and “building in value for the consumer.” The Teamsters were just one of 11 unions with which he needed to negotiate new contracts. And when Osberg finished his initial address to the Council of Unions at the Teamsters Hall, Teamsters Local 628 president John Laigaie responded with a far more concise message. “Fuck you,” said Laigaie, “and your vision of the future.” Osberg’s response circulated among the denizens of the Inquirer building in various forms, some no doubt apocryphal: “I think in time you’ll come to see my vision will work for the newspapers, and for you,” goes one version. In another, likely closer to the truth, Osberg didn’t react at all. He just sat there, smiling beatifically, as long-time Philadelphia newspaper executive Bob Hall leaned over and whispered: “Welcome to Philadelphia.” MORE

PHILLY POST: Well, I must admit: I didn’t see all this coming. From the trainwreck Greg Osberg has made of his administration at Philadelphia Media Network to the emergence of Jeffrey Perelman as a bidder, the last month at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com has run counter to expectation. Back in the winter of 2011, I wrote a profile of Greg Osberg in which I assessed the chances of a business turnaround at this city’s newspapers as low but lauded Osberg as fitting the template of a possible savior: A longtime Newsweek business executive, who embraced the Internet way before the majority of his print publishing competitors; a guy who led a dot-com—CNET—to profitability, a rare feat on anyone’s resume; and a man with a real love for technology, as opposed to a fear of what it’s done to his industry. Those things remain true, as far as they go. But they didn’t go far enough. In the last month or so, soon after it was announced that the semi-regular sale of Philadelphia’s newspapers would recommence, we learned just how ill suited Osberg is to this work. MORE

ROMANESKO: David Carr [pictured, left] had multiple sources confirming Osberg’s meeting with editors, and the two knew they were going to use it in their story. “So that was one of my first questions [to Osberg]: ‘Did you hold the meeting with the three editors?’ and he said no. I said, ‘You know this is going to be in the newspaper, so I’m going to give you one freebie. I’m going to give you a chance to amend that answer.’” Again, Osberg denied there was meeting. Just before ending the interview, Carr gave Osberg yet another opportunity to admit that the meeting took place. He wouldn’t do it. Carr says: “I asked Amy afterwards, ‘Do you think he choked? Why did he do that?’ We really couldn’t figure it out because word of that meeting was all over the building.” Later Wednesday afternoon, Philadelphia Daily News editor Larry Platt said on the record that the meeting took place. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: TONY AUTH wants to be clear about one thing: He is not being forced out of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Auth, the Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist who has been at the Inquirer since 1971, tells Comic Riffs today that he is stepping down from his four-decade perch to pursue new and invigorating forms of cartooning. Auth — also a Pulitzer finalist in 2010 — feels it’s the right time to take the buyout offer from the paper, which reportedly is looking to cut about three-dozen jobs. “It’s been a great ride — 40 years,” Auth tells Comic Riffs, whose last day at the paper will be March 30. “But a lot of things came together at the same time. And I’m going to continue to do two to three political cartoons a week [for] the radio and TV station WHYY [NewsWorks]” MORE

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