March 27, 2017 Last Updated 2:17 pm

President taps his son-in-law to promote privatizing government assets; Time Inc. sale may be nearing the finish line

Morning Brief: Two groups appear to remain in the running to buy the publisher of TIME and People, with the desire still to sell-off the company whole rather than in pieces

The drama of last week over the proposed health care bill is over, with Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump’s plan going down in flames. But this is a new week and the drama will ramp up quickly once again. Many assumed that the next big issue to tackle would be tax reform, but it doesn’t look that way – that, once again, may be dumped on the Congress to figure out. Instead, privatizing (and profiting from) the government appears to be what is on the president’s mind.

One must remember that following the fall of the Soviet Union this was the big agenda. It occurred because there was money to be made from the sell-off of state assets, often for pennies on the dollar. Now, the president wants to put his son-in-law in charge of this latest government land grab.

That Jared Kushner, the former publisher of the recently shuttered print edition of the NY Observer (the website remains), is to be put in charge. Kushner is to do for government what Sam Zell did for The Tribune Company and Marissa Mayer did for Yahoo, one supposes.

The administration dropped the trial balloon on Sunday. This is proving the perfect time to catch the NYT and WaPo off guard. It used to be that government liked to drop news late on a Friday, hoping it would be buried over the weekend, but editors caught on and many make sure they are ready for any late week news drops. But on the weekend, a new crew comes in, one that doesn’t see quite as ready to be very good at understanding what is news is being dropped.

This may be why Dan Gillmor is not happy with the story in the WaPo this morning. Seeing the story posted, the NYT may have chosen now as the time to break its own Kushner-related story.

The Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker:

Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas

President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump…

…The work of White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon has drawn considerable attention, especially after his call for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” But Bannon will have no formal role in the innovation office, which Trump advisers described as an incubator of sleek transformation as opposed to deconstruction.

The New York Times, Jo becker, Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman:

Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians

Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials.

The White House Counsel’s Office was informed this month that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wanted to question Mr. Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, according to the government officials. The meetings included a previously unreported sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank.

Speaking of a story reading like a press release, this one comes pretty close, as well. It is a love letter to North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of radical conservatives who have never been able to successfully pass legislation, but pride themselves of being able to bring the House to a halt. It was this group that blew up Ryan and Trump’s AHCA, but failed in their real goal, repealing Obamacare.

Politico, Adam Cancryn:

Back home, Freedom Caucus’ Meadows hailed as anti-Obamacare hero

House insurgent Mark Meadows embarrassed the White House and forced his fellow Republicans to turn tail on a seven-year pledge to tear down Obamacare.

His constituents are throwing him a party.

“This is the face of leadership!” declares a flier posted by the local tea party here in western North Carolina, urging supporters to turn out for a rally celebrating the three-term congressman who leads the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus. “Thank Mark and all those who gave us an opportunity to get health care right.”

This may be the week we hear something definitive about a Time Inc. sale. The week ended with word that Meredith and a group including Pamplona Capital Management were the final two suitors, though Keith kelly at the NY Post is floating the possibility that American Media Inc. could enter the picture, saying David Pecker, who recently picked up Us Weekly from Wenner Media (and promptly laid off a portion of the staff) is trying to raise the money.

NY Post, Keith Kelly:

Time Inc. delays nominations as possible sale nears

The Time Inc. board is talking with “multiple parties” as a potential selloff moves to its final stages, according to a source close to the situation.

Even as it does, there are indications that Jana Partners, the sometimes activist hedge fund that owns at least 5 percent of Time, is getting restless.

Time is still pushing the concept of selling to one buyer, even as it appears that some potential purchasers would prefer a bust-up.

Bloomberg, Alex Sherman:

Time Inc. Moves Closer to Sale for More Than $20 a Share

A sale of the entire company is now more likely than not, and may be reached as soon as the end of next week, the people said, though discussions could drag into early April. Meredith Corp. and a group including Pamplona Capital Management and Jahm Najafi are still in the running to buy the entire business, alongside at least two other suitors including one publicly listed company, the people said.

A bid at more than $20 a share would value Time at about $2 billion. Time shares are up more than 40 percent since Nov. 25, the last day of trading before it was reported that an investor group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. had made an offer. The company currently has a market valuation of about $1.9 billion and traded around $19.25 at 2:03 p.m. in New York.

Meredith, which publishes titles such as Family Fun and MidWest Living, is seen as the most likely winner as it has the most obvious synergies with Time, the people said.

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