Drew Katz is selling his interest in Interstate General Media, the company that his late father Lewis Katz won at auction just two weeks ago after a furious months-long fight over the ownership of Philadelphia’s major newspapers. The announcement Tuesday night appears to leave Gerry Lenfest, Lewis Katz’s partner in the bidding, the sole owner of those newspapers.
“Because of the turmoil of the last 10 days, I have made a decision that it would be in the best interests of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com for me to sell my interest in the company,” Drew Katz said in an email Tuesday night. “I believe strongly that the organization would be in excellent hands under the ownership of Gerry Lenfest now and in the years to come.”
The announcement came hours after a report at BigTrial.net that Drew Katz had fallen out with Lenfest in the days since his father’s death, allegedly feeling he’d been elbowed out of decisions concerning the future of the papers by the older man — and resenting, reportedly, that Lenfest hadn’t offered any personal condolences about Lewis Katz’s death in a plane crash a week after the bidding concluded.
Drew Katz denied he’d had any falling-out with Lenfest.
“I would also like to emphasize that despite public reports to the contrary, Mr. Lenfest sent me a heartfelt, beautiful note when my father passed away. My father loved Gerry Lenfest and Gerry loved my dad,” Drew Katz wrote.
Particulars of the deal have not been finalized. BigTrial.net reported that Lenfest was buying Drew Katz out for $16 million.
“Although no deal has been consummated, I wanted to set forth my intentions to clarify public reports issued earlier today,” Drew Katz wrote. “If there is a deal reached, I will have more to say.”
Gerry Lenfest made no immediate public comment.
Drew Katz’s announcement was the latest twist in the newspapers’ recent ownership saga. It came a week after he buried his father, which in turn came a week after his father and Lenfest unexpectedly won control of the papers. (See Philly Mag's archives on the recent ownership squabbles at the paper.) Lewis Katz and Lenfest had put up the winning bid of $88 million.
The events left Bill Ross, director of the Newspaper Guild that represents journalists at the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, concerned for the future of the news organizations.
"I'm very concerned, considering that we haven't been able to talk or even see Mr. Lenfest since the auction,” Ross said Tuesday night. (He and Lenfest exchanged angry public letters at the height of the ownership squabble.) "I was somewhat optimistic, hoping Drew would take an important role here and get involved, since he is in the advertising business." Drew Katz heads Interstate Outdoor, a billboard business.
The closing of the original sale was scheduled for Wednesday; no telling if recent developments — the death of Lewis Katz, the withdrawal of Drew Katz — will affect that timetable.
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