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Landmark Communications is the parent company of Dominion Enterprises.

Dominion Enterprises owns eNeighborhoods, Advanced Access, Homes.com and the Harmon Homes magazine.

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Sale of Landmark Communications Explored

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The family that owns Landmark Communications is reportedly exploring the possible sale of the company, which owns the Weather Channel and nine daily newspapers.

The privately held, Norfolk-based company could be sold in whole or in part or not at all, its flagship newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, reported Thursday. It said an announcement of the plans could come as early as Thursday.

The New York Times reported in Thursday’s editions that the company which is controlled by the Batten family of Norfolk, Va., would seek bids. It said the Weather Channel could fetch more than $5 billion and is attracting interest from companies including General Electric Co.’s NBC unit, News Corp. and the cable TV company Comcast Corp. The Times cited unidentified people briefed on the auction.

Bruce Bradley, the newspaper’s publisher, told The Associated Press a statement would be available later Thursday.

“We are exploring strategic alternatives, and that can entail a number of possibilities, one of which is the sale of the company’s businesses,” Richard F. Barry III, vice chairman of the company, told The Virginian-Pilot. “It’s very early in the process.”

Barry did not say in the newspaper report why a sale was being considered.

But there have been a number of recent sales of media companies. Financial publisher Dow Jones & Co., the owner of The Wall Street Journal, was recently sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Real estate magnate Sam Zell recently took control of newly private Tribune Co., which owns 23 television stations and nine daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, as well as the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

The Weather Channel’s Web site, Weather.com, had more than 32 million unique users in November and ranks as the nation’s 18th-largest media site by traffic, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Debora J. Wilson, The Weather Channel’s chief executive, told The New York Times in June: “Every media conglomeration has approached Landmark, and there’s never been a yes. We actually think that we’re stronger being independent.”

The company, which had $1.75 billion in sales in 2006, employs about 9,000. It is parent to nine daily papers, including The Roanoke Times in Virginia and The News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., and more than 100 nondaily newspapers and specialty publications.

“While I am saddened about this development, I understand and agree with the business reasons for exploring these options,” Bruce Bradley, publisher of The Pilot and a Landmark employee for 34 years, told The Virginian-Pilot.

In addition to The Weather Channel and its Web site, Landmark owns television stations in Las Vegas and Nashville, Tenn., and Norfolk-based Dominion Enterprises, a national chain of classified-ad publications.

Frank Batten Sr. helped build the company after taking over as publisher of the local newspaper in 1954.

“The thing I think I’m most proud of is developing what I think is a first-rate company that has high values and makes a contribution to all the communities we serve,” Batten said in 2000.

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