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Son of late Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner backs out of paper's sale


June 4, 2014: Drew Katz speaks during a public memorial service for his father, Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz, at Temple University in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The son of a Philadelphia Inquirer investor won't go forward with plans to buy its parent company this week, citing "the turmoil" of his father's recent plane crash death.

Drew Katz confirmed late Tuesday he plans to withdraw from the $88 million sale, which was set to close Wednesday. That leaves city philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest the sole buyer.

The surprise announcement came after Katz's father, Lewis Katz, and six other people died May 31 when his private plane crashed near Boston.

Lewis Katz and Lenfest had days earlier bid $88 million to buy out their business partners from a 2012 investment in the media company, Interstate General Media. The blog first reported late Tuesday that Drew Katz was pulling out of the deal for the company, which also operates the Philadelphia Daily News and the website.

"Because of the turmoil of the last 10 days, I have made a decision that it would be in the best interests of The Inquirer, Daily News and for me to sell my interest in the company," Katz said in a statement. "I believe strongly that the organization would be in excellent hands under the ownership of Gerry Lenfest now and in the years to come."

Katz's decision is just the latest turmoil for the newsrooms, which have been through five owners in eight years, then seen the latest owners sue and countersue. Lewis Katz had recently called the two-year tenure "nightmarish" and apologized to the company's nearly 2,000 workers.

Katz and Lenfest had vowed to fund in-depth journalism to return the Inquirer to its former glory and to retain its editor, William K. Marimow.

"It's going to be a lot of hard work. We're not kidding ourselves. It's going to be an enormous undertaking," Katz said at the time, noting that advertising and circulation revenue have fallen for years. "Hopefully, (the Inquirer) will get fatter."

Rival owner George Norcross, an insurance executive and powerful New Jersey Democrat, had pushed for "hyper-local" news and sports coverage to boost revenue. His daughter, Lexie Norcross, helped run the website, which often uses celebrity news and other teasers.

Inquirer city editor Nancy Phillips, a Marimow protege, had been Katz's longtime companion.

Lenfest will now have to pay $42 million to buy out the Norcross faction and potentially repay Drew Katz $16 million for his father's original investment. Lenfest would lose a $5 million deposit if the deal does not close by midnight Wednesday unless a Delaware court overseeing the sale grants an extension.

Lenfest and several lawyers involved in the deal did not return repeated messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

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