Warren Buffett considers deal to give up stake in former Washington Post publisher

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 12:00 am

Warren Buffett is in talks to exit his $1.1 billion investment in Graham Holdings Co., the former publisher of the Washington Post, after owning the stock for more than four decades.

Graham may swap assets including a business, and possibly shares it holds in Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., according to a regulatory filing Wednesday. Omaha-based Berkshire would turn over its Graham stake if a deal is signed.

Berkshire and Graham “have not agreed on any terms for such a transaction, and may not reach any such agreement,” according to the filing. Buffett's company may acquire additional shares in Graham if an agreement isn't reached or could sell its holdings, Berkshire said in the filing.

Buffett's company owns 1.73 million shares of Graham, a stake of about 28 percent. The stock closed Wednesday at $654.90. Graham's businesses include the Kaplan education unit as well as television stations and a cable network.

Buffett didn't return a message seeking comment.

Graham took its name after selling the Washington Post newspaper to Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos last year. As part of the agreement, Bezos assumed the pension obligations of current employees. Graham still is responsible for retired workers. Its defined-benefit pension plan portfolio held $228.6 million in Berkshire stock at the end of September, according to a regulatory filing.

“No transaction will be consummated unless it is in the interest of both parties,” Graham Holdings said in a statement. Berkshire said in the filing that a deal would be structured as a tax-free split-off.

Buffett was a longtime confidant and friend of Katharine Graham, the former Post chairman and CEO who died in 2001.

The billionaire also is friends with Don Graham, Katharine Graham's son and the CEO of Washington-based Graham Holdings, according to Alice Schroeder's book, “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.”

Graham Holdings shares surged 63 percent in the past 12 months. Berkshire climbed 16 percent in that period.

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