Buffett's Berkshire backs Scripps deal to buy ION for $2.7 billion
Posted September 24, 2020 11:55 a.m. EDT
CNN — Juicy true-crime stories are hot right now, and Warren Buffett wants in.
TV station owner E.W. Scripps is buying true-crime cable network ION Media for $2.65 billion -- and Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is backing the deal.
Shares of Scripps surged more than 20% on the news. Scripps, which relaunched the Court TV cable channel last year, will combine ION with its Katz cable networks, which include Bounce and Grit in addition to the revamped Court TV.
Berkshire Hathaway said it was buying $600 million of Scripps preferred shares to help finance the deal. Berkshire also will receive a warrant that will allow the company to buy up to 23.1 million more shares at a price of $13, which would amount to an additional investment of $300 million.
Berkshire Hathaway has been eager to invest some of its nearly $150 billion in cash on deals. Buffett has long talked about wanting to make an "elephant-sized" acquisition but he has been unwilling to pull the trigger on one because stock prices have remained too high.
Still, Berkshire has made some notable smaller investments lately to take advantage of the coronavirus-induced market volatility of the past few months.
The company announced in August that it had taken big stakes in several Japanese trading conglomerates. Earlier this summer, Berkshire also acquired natural gas assets from Dominion Energy for nearly $10 billion.
Berkshire has also made some uncharacteristic investments as of late. The company bought shares of gold mining company Barrick in the second quarter, even though Buffett has often panned gold as a bad long-term bet.
The company also acquired a stake in red-hot cloud software IPO Snowflake this month -- even though Buffett has often been reluctant to invest in pricey high-tech firms that he claims to not understand.
But Berkshire has changed with the times, and Apple is now Berkshire's largest stock holding.
Meanwhile Buffett, who recently turned 90, is also allowing Berkshire investing lieutenants Todd Combs, who also runs Berkshire's Geico insurance unit, and Ted Weschler to make more of their own decisions about what to do with Berkshire's money.
Scripps specifically noted Thursday that Weschler, not Buffett, was responsible for Berkshire's involvement in the ION deal.
"As the media industry continues its rapid evolution, Berkshire Hathaway is fortunate to partner with this management team and the Scripps family, who have successfully anticipated the future of media for over a century," Weschler said in a statement.