The union that represents journalists at Philly’s biggest newspapers is — once again — offering to buy the Daily News, this time in the wake of announced layoffs at the company. A spokesman for owner Gerry Lenfest, however, said he is uninterested in selling.
“We would like to commence negotiations for a sale of the Daily News immediately,” Lisa A. Lori, the guild’s attorney, wrote in a Thursday letter (below) to Terry Egger, the new publisher at Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the paper.
Such a purchase, she wrote, “will help mitigate the loss of employment for a substantial number of individuals and it will help PMN shed an asset that, based on the number of layoffs of Daily News employees … it appears PMN has little interest in.”
The letter was obtained Thursday afternoon by Philadelphia magazine. Bill Ross, executive director of the guild, confirmed the letter’s authenticity, but offered few details.
“At this point it’s probably premature for me to comment,” he said.
A spokesman for PMN, however, said the offer would be rejected: “Mr. Lenfest has consistently made it clear he has no interest in selling the Daily News.” (See the official response letter, below.)
Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the Daily News, Inquirer, and Philly.com, is wholly owned since 2014 by Lenfest. He joined Lewis Katz in winning control of the organization last year, just days prior to Katz’s death in a plane crash.
Lenfest appointed Egger in August. Last week, Egger announced that the newsrooms of the three entities would be merged into one — and on Wednesday, the company announced layoffs to facilitate the restructuring: 17 jobs lost at both the DN and Philly.com; a dozen at the Inquirer.
This is at least the third time the Guild has made an effort to purchase all or part of the company.
The first effort, to buy the whole company, came in 2013, when Lenfest and Katz were engaged in a court battle with a group led by then-co-owner George Norcoss to control the newspapers. That offer was rebuffed.
The second effort — this time to buy only the Daily News — came in December, but had not been widely publicized until today. Lori described the effort in her Thursday letter to Egger.
“At that time, Philadelphia Media Network had indicated that it was going to reduce the staff at the Daily News by more than 20 employees,” she wrote. “The Guild conveyed its interest to attempt to mitigate the loss of those employees. However, PMN responded that it was not interested in selling the Daily News.”
Ross declined to discuss how the guild would finance such a purchase. The effort would also presumably raise questions over whether the guild could represent journalists at one paper (the Inquirer) while owning and operating a competitor newspaper.
“Don’t assume,” he said, when asked about the possibility of bringing in outside financiers to help fund the purchase.
Barring a change of heart on Lenfest’s part, however, the layoffs and merger of the newsroom will proceed. The layoffs are due to be complete on December 4th.
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Update: An earlier version of this story misspelled PMN’s publisher name.