Could Warren Buffett Buy the Financial Times?

LONDON -- Tycoons such as Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffett may soon have the opportunity to acquire the Financial Times, if recent reports about the newspaper's current owner prove to be accurate.

According to Bloomberg, FTSE 100 (UKX) member Pearson (LSE: PSON.L  ) (NYSE: PSO  ) may sell the Financial Times division as the group focuses more attention on its larger education businesses. 

Bloomberg cited unidentified sources close to Pearson as saying the company has "decided to consider offers for the newspaper this year."

The rumors follow the impending departure of Marjorie Scardino, who has served as Pearson's chief executive for almost 16 years, and the recent decision to merge the group's Penguin paperback subsidiary with the publishing operations of Bertelsmann.

During 2011, the Financial Times and various sister publications produced sales of 427 million pounds and adjusted operating profits of 76 million pounds. One of Bloomberg's mystery sources touted a potential 1 billion pound price tag for the subsidiary.

Potential purchasers for the Financial Times may include Murdoch, a former school newspaper editor and now chairman of News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWS  ) , which bought The Wall Street Journal for $5 billion during 2007. 

However, U.K. regulatory hurdles -- News Corp. already publishes the Times and Sun newspapers -- may prevent Murdoch from completing any deal.

Warren Buffett, a former paperboy and currently boss of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) , may be another interested bidder. 

Buffett's conglomerate has owned a large stake in Washington Post since 1973 and has bought more than 60 newspapers, including his local Omaha World-Herald, for $342 million during the past year or so.

Whether Pearson actually sells -- and whether Murdoch or Buffett actually buys -- the Financial Times remains purely speculation at present.

However, both tycoons may take a look if invited to make a bid, given the Financial Times is one of the few large newspapers to have survived the Internet and recession relatively intact.  

In the meantime, it could pay to investigate a share one of the tycoons has bought this year.

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Maynard Paton owns no shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2012, at 8:25 AM, Sotograndeman wrote:

    The answer is a resounding No! in my opinion.

    Buffett does not get involved with bidding on high-profile trophy newspapers, where there's inevitably a premium on price, preferring to look in the bargain bin for overlooked gems at knock-down prices.

    He bought WPO in 1973 for $80M when it was worth north of $400M and no-one else was interested.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2012, at 10:56 AM, captkerosene1 wrote:

    If it is offered for sale at a specific price, the Buffett will look at it. He doesn't play "how much would you give me for it."

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