Lenfest: Sale of Inquirer company will move ahead

With Lewis Katz at right, Katz's son, Drew (left), and co-owner H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest headed to a news conference Tuesday after the elder Katz and Lenfest won control of The Inquirer's parent company.
With Lewis Katz at right, Katz's son, Drew (left), and co-owner H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest headed to a news conference Tuesday after the elder Katz and Lenfest won control of The Inquirer's parent company. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 03, 2014

The sudden death of Lewis Katz will not derail the sale of the parent company of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the website Philly.com.

Both H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, Katz's partner in the purchase, and Richard Sprague, who represented the pair in negotiations to buy the property, said Sunday that the $88 million deal would be completed as anticipated.

Although the deal is set to close June 12, Sprague said that the sellers - three other co-owners of Interstate General Media, led by George E. Norcross III - had offered to extend the closing up to 30 days if necessary.

Lenfest said Drew Katz, Lewis Katz's son, would fill his father's role on the new company's board.

Lewis Katz and Lenfest purchased the papers as equal partners Tuesday at auction. Katz and Norcross had been managing partners of the company since 2012 but had a falling-out, triggering the auction.

Katz died Saturday night in the crash of a private jet at a Massachusetts airfield.

Lewis Katz's $44 million commitment to the company's purchase is now an obligation of his estate, Lenfest said, and the estate will meet that obligation.

Drew Katz was unavailable for comment.

Stephen Harmelin, a lawyer with Dilworth Paxson L.L.P. who did legal work for The Inquirer, said Drew Katz was well-prepared for his role by his father.

"Lewis spent his time grooming Drew into the young businessman he is," Harmelin said. "I am certain that when he recovers from this shock, he will be able to perform ably."

Asked if Drew Katz, 42, would be as committed to The Inquirer as his father had been, Harmelin said he thought so.

"I have every reason to believe that is true," he said. "But ultimately, that is a question Drew will have to answer."


chepp@phillynews.com

215-854-2594

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