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Landmark Communications considers selling businesses

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Jessica Sabbath

The private communications company that owns The Weather Channel and publishes The Virginian-Pilot is considering selling its businesses.

Norfolk-based Landmark Communications has hired investment banks JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers to explore the sale of part or all of the company’s assets, according to The Virginian-Pilot, Landmark’s flagship newspaper. JP Morgan is helping the company look at sale of The Weather Channel, and Lehman Brothers is exploring the sale of its other media properties.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the sale of The Weather Channel, whose Web site is the 18th most-visited media site in the world, could net $5 billion on its own. In addition to the Pilot, the company owns daily and community newspapers — including The Roanoke Times, Style Weekly in Richmond and the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina — TV stations and a chain of classified advertising publications.

The New York Times reported that NBC, Fox News Corp., Comcast and Times Warner could be interested in an auction of The Weather Channel.

Frank Batten Sr. helped the company expand when he took control from his uncle in 1954. Landmark Communications made an estimated $1.75 billion in sales in 2006 and employs about 12,000 people, according to Hoover’s. Batten’s son, Frank Batten Jr., became head of the company in 1998.

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