The billionaires who own the media – Part 1

Warren Buffett

BH Media Group serves communities in 10 states. We own and operate 30 daily newspapers along with their digital sites. BH Media also publishes 47 paid weekly newspapers and 32 other print products.

If you ever wondered what billionaires do with their money, besides buying 600-foot yachts and $100 million NYC penthouses – think media and the power it offers to often otherwise shallow money-grubbers.

Warren Buffett

A certain exception to the stupidity charge is Warren Buffet, 89, who has managed to keep a low-key public image and enjoy a relatively modest personal life. What Buffett does with his money is accumulate power by investing in our largest corporations.

When it comes to rich folks owning your company, you can bet employees are not only grateful for their jobs, but also willing to suspend belief and think they agree with the owner’s whims and even political stances.

Nobody wants to make the boss unhappy, not even editors of newspapers and producers of tv shows.

Which brings me to newspapers and Buffett’s holdings.

Buffett has long been a big shot in the publishing world, and his Berkshire Hathaway (BH) owned 1.7 million shares in Graham Holdings, the Washington Post’s parent company. In 2013 the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, bought the Post, and made a deal with Buffett, the third richest man in the world, to divest BH shares.

Buffett then bought Media General (MG), a newspaper group with influence in political swing states like Virginia (30 papers) and nine papers that cover the “mid-south,” which includes Florida. All together, he has 77 newspapers in the MG group.

Other newspapers in the Buffett stable include the Buffalo News and Omaha World-Herald.

While all owners of newspapers say their staff has “editorial independence”, even a NYT Opinion Page writer is smart enough to know that an expose of the boss’ affair with the head of the press room, will not help your career and dismissal is a matter of when, not if.

Editors and reporters toe the line and “consult” with owners before even thinking of humiliating the person who pays their salary.

So, what Buffett believes is important because he is a publishing and corporate powerhouse.

Son of a Congressman, Buffett established the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after his late wife, and has donated heavily to liberal groups:

  • Planned Parenthood: $289 million
  • Marie Stopes International: $211 million
  • National Abortion Federation: $85 million
  • DKT International: $78 million
  • Engender Health: $32 million
  • Guttmacher Institute: $29 million
  • NARAL: $24 million

Regardless of where you stand on the parameters of abortion, the media has been very careful not to involve Buffett in the controversy, despite his huge financial contributions to one side of the issue.:

Out of the 545 stories and interviews with Buffett on ABC, CBS and NBC since 2001, the networks only mentioned his abortion funding once, and even that was only a passing reference to his wife’s support of Planned Parenthood. Not once did the networks mention how much money Buffett poured into the abortion industry. – Media Research Center

Buffett is sincere in his abortion stance:

Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was only legal in California, so Buffett sponsored the Ecumenical Fellowship – a so-called “church” that would arrange the abortions for women from other states, and plan their travel arrangements. Eventually, the Ecumenical Fellowship merged with the Los Angeles chapter of Planned Parenthood. – Live Action

Not only are newspapers he owns influenced by his politics (he supported Hillary Clinto against Barack Obama), but he may have the most influence on many of America’s leading corporations, their executives and their major shareholders.

Only a fool would like to disagree with an investor, who owns millions, even billions of dollars in their company stock.

There’s no simple way to end the power of the rich over the companies where we work and the newspapers we read – unless we tax the very rich enough to keep them just “medium” rich.

The following are Berkshire Hathaway minority holdings in companies, their stock shares owned by BH & value of Buffett investments ($100 million cutoff):

Apple 255,300,329 $40,271,000,000
Bank of America 918,919,000 $22,642,000,000
Wells Fargo and Co 449,349,102 $20,706,000,000
The Coca-Cola Company 400,000,000 $18,940,000,000
American Express 151,610,700 $17,777,870,682
The Kraft Heinz Company 325,634,818 $10,609,182,370
U.S. Bancorp 146,346,999 $6,688,000,000
JPMorgan Chase & Co. 50,661,394 $4,946,000,000
Mondelēz International 24,669,778 $4,659,627,669
Bank of New York Mellon Corp 84,488,751 $3,977,000,000
Moodys Corp 24,669,778 $3,455,000,000
Delta Air Lines, Inc. 65,535,000 $3,270,000,000
Goldman Sachs 18,784,698 $3,138,000,000
General Motors 72,269,696 $2,715,895,176
Verisign Inc 12,952,745 $2,509,335,289
Southwest Airlines Co 47,890,899 $2,226,000,000
DaVita Inc. 38,565,570 $2,020,064,557
Charter Communications, Inc. 6,789,054 $1,935,000,000
United Continental Holdings 21,938,642 $1,837,000,000
Visa Inc 10,562,460 $1,687,986,733
American Airlines 43,700,000 $1,483,615,000
Liberty Sirius XM Group Series 31,090,985 $1,224,984,809
Mastercard 4,934,756 $1,210,544,994
PNC Financial Services Group 8,263,062 $1,090,228,400
Costco Wholesale Corporation 4,333,363 $1,055,043,890
Phillips 66 11,895,842 $1,020,068,452
Amazon 483,300 $904,000,000
Travelers Companies Inc 5,958,391 $845,078,596
Sirius XM Holdings Inc. 137,915,729 $787,498,813
Red Hat Inc. 4,175,792 $771,059,993
Synchrony Financial 20,803,000 $715,623,200
Axalta Coating Systems 24,264,000 $630,378,720
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries 43,249,295 $625,817,299
Store Capital Corp. 18,621,674 $617,680,927
Liberty Sirius XM Group Series 14,860,360 $582,526,112
Restaurant Brands Int. 8,438,225 $565,445,457
Torchmark Corporation 6,353,727 $553,663,771
Liberty Global A Class 19,791,000 $520,305,390
StoneCo Ltd. 14,166,748 $392,277,252
Suncor Energy Inc. 10,758,000 $347,913,720
Liberty Global C Class 7,346,968 $188,229,320

And these are Berkshire’s wholly owned subsidiaries

Acme Brick Company
Ben Bridge Jeweler
Benjamin Moore & Co.
Berkshire Hathaway Assurance
Berkshire Hathaway Automotive
Berkshire Hathaway Energy
Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry
Brooks Sports
The Buffalo News
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation
Business Wire
Cavalier Homes
Central States Indemnity
Charter Brokerage
Clayton Homes
CORT Business Services
CTB Inc.
Dairy Queen
Ebby Halliday Companies
Fechheimer Brothers Company
FlightSafety International
Forest River
Fruit of the Loom
General Re
Helzberg Diamonds
H.H. Brown Shoe Group
International Metalworking Companies (IMC)
Johns Manville
Jordan’s Furniture
Justin Brands
Kansas Bankers Surety Company
Kern River Pipeline
Louis Motor
Marmon Group
McLane Company
Medical Protective
National Indemnity Company
Nebraska Furniture Mart
NetJets Europe
Northern Natural Gas
NV Energy
Omaha World-Herald
Oriental Trading Company
Pampered Chef[63]
Pilot Flying J
Precision Castparts Corp.
Precision Steel Warehouse, Inc.
RC Willey Home Furnishings
Richline Group
Russell Brands
Scott Fetzer Company
See’s Candies
SE Homes
Shaw Industries
Star Furniture
TTI, Inc.
United States Liability Insurance Group
Wesco Financial

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