Media news updates: Time Inc. and tronc sales; Middle East mags shutdown as owners flee country
More layoffs at the Guardian US announced, just days after management at the company decides to bail on planned move to Brooklyn after it is discovered who owns the building
There is, as predicted, enough news today to fill any website with content. To my surprise, however, at least some of the news involves publishers instead merely of politicians (though there is plenty of that, as well).
Of course, the big news was the terrorist attack today outside of Parliament in London. Four people are now confirmed dead, including a woman was the first to be reported killed, a police officer, and the knife-wielding attacker shot by police. At least ten (later said to be 20) are injured, including French students who happened to be in the area. (Late this afternoon, Westminster updated the death toll to five, the injured to 40.)
The incident is a good example of why you cannot trust early reports of such things. Many journalist, responding only to social media, described the incident as a shooting attack – that is, the attacker had a gun, he didn’t. Worse, several journalists on my timeline were quick begin discussing the ramifications of the attack, one calling it huge and certain to lead to a justification for ending Muslim immigration and visits to the US and UK. Few who jumped the gun walked back their early reports.
Media observers are still focusing on two possible M&A events: the newspaper chain, which is not officially for sale but might, and Time Inc., which is officially studying bids, but may not actually sell.
Ken Doctor today speculates that tronc investor Patrick Soon-Shiong might be in line to buy the newspaper publisher. The South African-born American surgeon and entrepreneur recently upped his stake in the company, but he also was removed from his leadership role in the company.
Whether Soon-Shiong is really interested in the whole company, which includes the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, or only the Southern California papers – the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune – is hard to tell.
LA business newspapers are wild with speculation, mainly because Southern Californian would love nothing better than to be free of Chicago ownership. This distaste for it has a long history. At one time, The Tribune Company owned the Los Angeles Daily News, which serves the San Fernando Valley. At this time, which I was working in LA for Hearst’s Herald Examiner, much of the newspaper community was filled with stories of Tribune ownership. In 1985, Tribune sold off the paper to Jack Kent Cooke, the Canadian entrepreneur and, at the time, owner of the Washington Redskins.
In 2000, the Chandler family sold the LA Times to The Tribune Company, which was certainly was a blow to local pride. But it was when Chicago-based investor Sam Zell bought The Tribune Company in 2007 when locals knew they were screwed. In December of 2008 the company filed for for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Then in 2013 The Tribune Company announced that it would split into two companies, one for broadcast, the other print. Of course, the digital assets went with broadcast, the debt with the print company.
Time Inc.’s possible sale got a little more complicated today with the report that the investor group led by billionaire businessman Edgar Bronfman Jr. had pulled out of the bidding for the magazine publisher. That leaves Meredith.
A sale could still happen if Meredith has things lined up. First, its bid would, of course, have to be high enough. That means a high enough big to satisfy shareholders, or alternative, a willingness to take on Time Inc.’s debt.
Second, it doesn’t really want all the properties, so it will have to be confident that it has sell-off those properties. Talk is that Meredith is not thrilled with publishing the weeklies, and then there is the UK portfolio, the old IPC Media company. It’s possible that the investor group is mainly interested in Time, People and Sports Illustrated and would be willing to work with Meredith to swing the deal.
It’s also possible, of course, that there won’t be a deal.
Gulf News is reporting that the Middle East editions of Femina and Filmfare have shut down after the franchise owners of the Indian magazines stiffed their vendors and bolted the country.
The publisher is Saffron Media Works which bills itself as the “best event management companies in Dubai” as sell as the publisher of four magazines.
According to Gulf News, the employees have not been paid for months but were hoping things would turn around.
We were keeping our fingers crossed, but it looks like they never had any intention to pay us. That explains why they slipped out of the country,” a staff told the news outlet.
Finally, is there a more mismanaged company in all of media than The Guardian? Here we have a UK news organization that remains small in the UK, but has managed to grow an impressive audience in the US. Yet, management is turned over constantly, with what can only be described as a fetish for hiring UK managers*. Things, to say the least, have not gone well.
Earlier this week, TNM mercifully ignored the reports that Guardian US has abandoned their plan to move into a new Brooklyn office after the staff learned that the building was owned by the son-in-law of the president, Jared Kushner. Good due diligence there guys.
“The complex, formerly the world headquarters for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was purchased by Kushner Cos. in December for $345 million,” the NY Post reported. “A key worry among left-leaning Guardian staffers: that reporters’ confidential sources might be concerned their communications were secure in the Kushner-owned building.”
BuzzFeed says the “cost the company $250,000, a figure a Guardian spokesperson disputed.
Today, the company announced layoffs with the goal of reducing costs by 20 percent.
Amazing how staff always gets punished for the sins of management.
* I admit to several bad experiences with UK managers being brought in to run US operations. But the issue is certainly not nationality, it is familiarity with the market. NYC-based Hearst used to love to bring in New Yorkers to run its LA operation which led to attempts to turn the paper into a tabloid for easier reading on the non-existent LA subway, as well as other miscues.