Lenfest: Chaos is over for Daily News, Inquirer

Lenfest: Bought Katz's shares.
Lenfest: Bought Katz's shares.
Posted: June 20, 2014

IMAGINE riding a roller coaster while blindfolded - chugging forward, picking up speed, not knowing what twists and turns await around the bend.

That, in so many words, is what life has been like in recent years at the Daily News, the Inquirer and Philly.com.

The media company has changed hands five times, survived bankruptcy and endured an ugly court battle pitting two factions of owners against one another.

But now, the chaos is over, according to philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, who yesterday officially became the sole owner of the city's two newspapers and their websites.

Lenfest, 84, bought out Drew Katz's shares of the papers' parent company, Interstate General Media, for an undisclosed sum.

Katz's father, businessman and philanthropist Lewis Katz, had teamed with Lenfest to submit a winning $88 million bid for IGM at a private auction May 27.

Four days later, Lewis Katz, 72, and six others died when a small plane crashed in Massachusetts.

Katz's shares reverted to his son, Drew, who said he decided to sell because he needed time to grieve for his father and for his mother, Marjorie Joy Nemarow Katz, who died in December.

"In a way, I'm sorry that Drew didn't continue on, but he has his own business and lives in New York," Lenfest said. "I terribly miss his father, of course."

Lenfest, who is serving as interim publisher, said he's focused on finding someone to fill the position full time and unite the company's employees.

"Everybody should pull together and work hard to make the newspapers successful and continue their excellence," he said. "There's no more fighting at the top."

Lenfest also wants to set up a board of directors composed of five to seven community leaders.

Ultimately, the company will be set up in a corporation that would continue on, "just in case I kick the bucket," he said.

"There's no other source in the media that provides the information that the Daily News and Inquirer provide. I've given a lot of money away, but I can't think of any cause that we support that's more important than the support of the newspapers."

On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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