Stephens Media, owners of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, bungled its last attempt to shut down the joint operating agreement (JOA) under which the Las Vegas Sun is published as separate advertising-free daily section that is hemorrhaging cash.
When the company tried to negotiate a deal with the Greenspun family members who owned the Sun, Brian Greenspun simply bought out his siblings and kept the JOA going, publishing an embarrassing section that is almost entirely syndicated material with a little local sports and entertainment copy.
The JOA expires in 2040.
But what if there was no R-J to publish the Sun?
Stephens Media couldn’t just close shop and will have a hard time selling the paper with the Sun albatross around its neck. But what if some media company, say Berkshire Hathaway Media, were to buy the press and the building and the equipment and the circulation list and shut down the R-J and start a new newspaper? Would there be a JOA?
Stephens Media parent Stephens Inc. acted as financial advisor to Van Tuyl Group in October when Berkshire Hathaway bought out the car dealership chain, so the executives doubtlessly are acquainted.
BH Media has been buying lately. There have been rumors about BH Media executives showing up on Stephens Media properties.
On observer noted that owner Warren Buffett, who purchased Nevada’s electricity company, may have a strategy: “In retrospect, his targeting just the smaller papers is a big clue about his forecast for the industry. Unlike regionals or big-city papers, small-town newspapers don’t have a lot of competition or good substitutes.”
Las Vegas is a fairly small market — and getting smaller in circulation — without a lot of competition.