Landmark Communications, the Norfolk, Virginia-based owner of the Weather Channel and a number of media businesses and magazines, has retained investment banks J.P. Morgan and Lehman Brothers to assist in exploring strategic options for the company-including the possible sale of the individual businesses.

"At this early stage, we cannot speculate on where this process will lead," Landmark CEO Frank Batten said in a statement. "We will consider various options, and, at the end, we will advise employees and customers of our conclusions."

According to news reports, Landmark generated $1.75 billion in sales in 2006. Analysts say the Weather Channel alone could fetch as much as $5 billion.

Landmark, a privately-held company with interests in publishing, broadcasting, specialty classified advertising products and other data services, owns Dominion Enterprises, which publishes a number of consumer marine and b-to-b titles including Soundings, Soundings Trade Only, PassageMaker and Woodshop News. Last year, Dominion’s revenues were nearly $1 billion.

Batten today told Landmark’s flagship newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot, that exploring options to sell the company was "an emotionally difficult decision for everybody, including me, and especially for my father, who’s worked in the company for more than 50 years." He added, "I’m very optimistic that this is the right thing for our shareholders and that all of our businesses will prosper, grow and do well under new ownership."

According to the newspaper, the sale of the Weather Channel and of Dominion Enterprises could come as early as this summer.