Lee pays off Berkshire Hathaway debt early; lays off eight St. Louis Post-Dispatch news employees

In an interesting coincidence involving Lee Enterprises' largest newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Davenport-based media firm announced it had paid off debt related to acquisition of that paper in 2005, while confirming today (6/26) it was laying off eight St. Louis newsroom employees.

Lee announced in a news release Thursday (6/25) it was paying off the remaining $9 million in so-called "New Pulitzer Notes" two years before they were due.

The notes were issued in May 2013 as part of a refinancing of $94 million in debt issued by Lee subsidiaries St. Louis Post-Dispatch LLC and Pulitzer, Inc. The debt was held by Berkshire Hathway's financial subsidiary BH Finance and carried an interest rate of 9 percent.

With repayment of the notes, Lee has approximately $750 million in long-term debt with a weighted average cost of just over 9 percent.

The layoffs at the St. Louis paper, Lee's largest circulation newspaper, included four reporters, a clerk, copy editor, assistant editor and director, according to an article by the St. Louis Business Journal. The Post-Dispatch employees are represented by a union, the United Media Guild.

The St. Louis Business Journal also reported Post-Dispatch Sunday circulation fell 14 percent (to 195,595 copies) and weekday circulation was down 16 percent (to 120,627 copies) for the six months ended March 31, compared with the same period in the prior year.

Lee operates 46 daily newspapers along with related online news sites, and has a joint interest in four other newspapers. Its primary markets include St. Louis, the Quad Cities, Lincoln, NE, Madison, WI, Billing, MT, Bloomington, IL, and Tucson.

Go to top