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By WARREN WHEAT
The Norfolk, Va.-based company that owns The News-Enterprise has suspended the sale of its properties.
Frank Batten Jr., chairman and CEO of Landmark Media Enterprises, LLC, explained Wednesday in a statement to employees that “We are in the midst of an extraordinary economic downturn.” The former publisher of The News-Enterprise said the national credit crisis has made it virtually impossible for potential buyers to finance acquisitions, and the recession has made it difficult to value businesses experiencing reduced revenue and earnings.
“As a result, we have decided to largely suspend the sales process,” Batten said. “We are proud of our businesses and confident about their future — and will not sell them at a time of uncertainty at depressed values.”
The company will continue to operate its separate businesses for several years before reinstituting the sales process but will consider offers during the interim.
R. Chris Ordway, publisher of The News-Enterprise, told the Hardin County business unit’s employees, “Personally, I believe the decision to suspend the sale of Landmark properties is especially good news for our local business unit and for LCNI in general.”
The newspaper has been a property of the Landmark Community Newspapers, Inc. division, based in Shelbyville, since 1974.
“Knowing that we will have our work cut out for us in our efforts to successfully grow our business during a period of declining revenues, I prefer to work closely with ownership and corporate level management team that is keenly knowledgeable of our individual local properties, markets, management teams and staffs,” Ordway said.
Landmark announced in January it was selling its properties, which included The Weather Channel, metropolitan newspapers in Norfolk and Roanoke, Va., and Greensboro, N.C., and the community news division.
The company earlier this month canceled an agreement to sell its TV station in Nashville because the buyer lost its financing.
The Weather Channel was sold in July to a consortium of NBC Universal and two private equity firms. Remaining business are Dominion Enterprises, The Virginian-Pilot Media Companies and Continental Broadband in Norfolk, plus newspapers, TV stations and interactive businesses elsewhere in the U.S.
Three Landmark executives also announced their retirements Wednesday. Bruce Bradley, president of the Landmark Publishing Group will retire next month. Bradley’s responsibilities will be assumed by Michael Abernathy, president of LCNI since 2001. Also retiring will be Decker Anstrom, Landmark president and chief operating officer, and Charlie Hill, executive vice president for Human Resources.
Warren Wheat can be reached at (270) 505-1764.