Birdland Acquisitions L.L.C. was formed in December 2015 to purchase New England Newspapers Inc. (NENI). Birdland principals are accomplished leaders and pre-eminent in their respective fields. The principals are: Stanford Lipsey, Publisher Emeritus of The Buffalo News, and former owner, Publisher and Pulitzer Prize winner for The Sun Newspaper group in Nebraska; Hans Morris, former President of Visa International; Fredric D. Rutberg, former Pittsfield District Court Judge; and Robert G. Wilmers, Chairman and CEO of M&T Bank.
Longtime Berkshire County residents: Bob Wilmers bought his home in Stockbridge in 1969, Judge Rutberg moved to the Berkshires in 1972, and Hans Morris has had a home in Stockbridge since 1987. All four have a history of commitment to making their communities a better place to live. They have each served on boards and have donated time and money for the arts, education, and building preservation. The not-for-profit world in the Berkshires has long benefited from their efforts.
The purchase of The Berkshire Eagle, and its sister newspapers, represents another example of their passion and dedication to the community, and their goal of expanding and protecting the quality of life for the people of the Berkshires.
Stanford Lipsey is a respected journalist, newspaper owner and Publisher, businessman, photographer, author and philanthropist, with more than a six-decade newspaper career.
A native of Omaha, Neb., Mr. Lipsey was first introduced to journalism while working in Student Publications at the University of Michigan. After graduating, he served in the USAF at Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, and was named Editor of the base newspaper, The Air Pulse. Later he worked his way up from the sales department of The Sun newspaper group in Omaha, NE, to become its owner and Publisher. In 1968, Lipsey sold the papers to friend and investor Warren Buffett, but remained on as Publisher. In 1973, he teamed with Buffett and Editor Paul Williams on an investigative expose of Boys Town that won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for The Sun.
Mr. Lipsey brings a high level of journalist perspective to Birdland. In 1983 he became Publisher of The Buffalo News, and held that position until his retirement in 2012; he remains Publisher Emeritus. Throughout his career, Lipsey has placed a priority on literacy and children's issues, numerous cultural endeavors, and a dedication to historic preservation. These are interests he shares with his wife Judi, retired senior partner of Eric Mower and Associates, who has also served on numerous cultural and civic boards. Besides a life-long fascination with photography, and his love of jazz, Lipsey's passion has always been the newspaper business.
Buffet summed it up, "Stan has been a sensational friend – and a sensational newspaperman."
Hans Morris has a long history of supporting the arts in Berkshire County. He is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Mass MoCA, and has served as a trustee of both Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival and Norman Rockwell Museum.
Mr. Morris worked at Citigroup and its predecessor company from 1980 – 2007, serving as Chief Financial Officer and Head of Finance, Technology and Operations for Citigroup's global institutional and capital-markets business. Upon leaving Citigroup, he served as President of Visa Inc., the credit-card giant, leading up to and during its $19.7 billion initial public offering, at the time the largest IPO in U.S. history. After Visa, Mr. Morris was Managing Director and Advisory Director for General Atlantic, a global growth equity firm.
He is now the Managing Partner of Nyca Partners LLC, a New York City- based venture capital firm focusing on financial technology, investing in early stage companies focusing on alternative credit models, merchant payment solutions, digital advice and financial infrastructure.
Mr. Morris is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and was head of the Dartmouth College fund, the college's principal development outreach from 1999 -2002. His wife, Kate serves as President of the John C. and Katherine M. Morris Foundation, Inc., as a trustee of the Fresh Air Fund and The Berkshire International Film Festival. And was formerly on the board of The Taft School, and the Berkshire Theater Group.
Fredric D. Rutberg
Judge Fredric Rutberg, a long time Stockbridge resident, retired in 2015 after 21 years on the Berkshire District Court bench. At the time of his retirement, Judge Rutberg said he was pleased to step off the bench, because it "gives you the opportunity to have another career when you think you still have your fastball."
A Philadelphia native, Judge Rutberg is a graduate of the University of Michigan and New York University School of Law. He began his law career, working for the New York Human Rights Commission, soon moving to Manhattan Legal Services in Spanish Harlem; he later transferred to Legal Services for Rensselaer County, NYC and moved to Stockbridge. In 1974, he began practicing law in the Berkshires and in 1976 joined his practice with Kenneth Shearn (a college and law-school classmate).
Judge Rutberg was the visionary behind the purchase of The Berkshire Eagle, and will serve as President of NENI. Facing mandatory retirement, he sought a way to stay engaged with life in the Berkshires in a meaningful way. He strongly believes that the return of the Eagle to local ownership will enrich the community socially, culturally and economically. This reflects his deep sense of attachment to the Berkshires.
Judge Rutberg is a former trustee of the Berkshire Theater Group. In 2013 he married Lee-native Judith Monachina, a former reporter and editor for The Advocate weekly, which was published in the Berkshires until early 2014. She has also contributed to The Berkshire Eagle on a freelance basis.
Robert G. Wilmers
Robert G. Wilmers is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of M&T Bank Corporation ("M&T") and its principal subsidiary, M&T Bank. M&T is headquartered in Buffalo, NY. Mr. Wilmers has held both of these positions since May 1983 when M&T had assets of $2 billion. Today those assets exceed $122 billion.
In addition to his role at M&T, Mr. Wilmers has served as Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation (2008-2009), Chairman of the New York State Bankers Association, (2002) and as a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (1993-1998).
Mr. Wilmers said, "I like being part of the banking business, being part of the community. As a banker you get involved with everything." in a lengthy 2011 profile in American Banker.
Although his bank has grown far beyond its Buffalo roots, he seems himself philosophically as a practitioner of community, rather than money-centered banking. About 20% of M&T Bank is owned by its employees and management, and about 4.3% by Berkshire Hathaway Corporation (the holding company headed by Warren E. Buffet).
Mr. Wilmers, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School, ran the Belgian operations of J.P. Morgan & Co.'s predecessor bank during the 1970's. Since 1983 he has been an active presence in Buffalo education and civic affairs.
He has homes in Buffalo, NY, New York City and Stockbridge, MA. His wife, Elizabeth, serves on the Board of Trustees of MassMoCA.