Lewis Katz’ son Drew has sold his father’s share of Interstate General Media to Gerry Lenfest.
The fate of Interstate General Media has been cloudy for almost a year now and was complicated by the recent death of Lewis Katz. But a deal to save The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com came through yesterday as H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest became the sole owner of the city’s two newspapers and their websites.
This happened after the 84 year old bought out the shares in the company that were inherited by Lewis Katz’s son Drew for an undisclosed amount, according to a statement made by Lenfest.
Lenfest said, “Of all the things I’ve done, I can’t think of anything more important. If we can put the operations of the newspapers in good hands, with responsible leadership and a good board of directors, then I think I will have accomplished a lot for Philadelphia.”
Drew Katz said in a statement, “We have not had time to grieve not only the loss of our father but also the ongoing pain of losing our mother less than six months ago. In light of these extraordinary and completely unanticipated circumstances, I have decided to sell my father’s stake in IGM to Gerry Lenfest. I am making this decision that is not only in the best interest of IGM, but also in the best interest of our family.”
The story began back in 2012 when Lewis Katz purchased two Philadelphia daily newspapers with a group of partners for $55 million. But he was unable to agree with his fellow managing partner, George Norcross, as to the direction of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. This led to a court ordered auction for full ownership which was held on May 28th.
Mr. Katz won that auction with his new partner, Lenfest, with an $88 million bid. But Katz died in the tragic crash of a private Gulfstream IV jet plane only four days later.
Joel Mathis had reported in the paper the day before Katz’s death that the two men were surprised that they had won the auction. “I can’t tell you what our plans are, because my plan yesterday was to go home with a big check. And I kinda ended up going home with less than I walked in with. A lot less, ” Katz was quoted as saying.
The Philadelphia Daily News published on Sunday a letter which Katz and Lenfest had written regarding their plans for the newspaper:
“We are about to assume ownership of one of America’s premier newspapers – celebrating its 185th birthday today. We know that our investment in The Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com will make it possible for them to continue to serve the region with distinction. On every platform, they will provide investigative journalism, in-depth local news, entertainment, sports, business, photography, and – yes – advertising, which readers seek out for special offers, and much, much more.
“As local people fortunate enough to now be owners of important media, we are determined to ensure that our team of award-winning journalists provides you with the most comprehensive reporting in the Philadelphia region. Our readers expect this and deserve it. Marketers expect this, too, and we certainly will help them by being an advertising medium that shoppers respond to.”
A native of Camden, New Jersey, Lewis Katz had many different business interests over the years. His initial success came with the billboard advertising company Interstate Outdoor Advertising of Cherry Hill New Jersey which he founded in 1984 and chaired until 1998.