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August 06, 2008

Hollywood Reporter is For Sale: NYT gets the pitch

Update: I've seen commenters question the figures in my earlier post. Several former Hollywood Reporter executives have written to confirm that my numbers are right in the ballpark. A couple of years back, according to these execs, The Hollywood Reporter was making $50-$60 million in gross revenues, and had 30-40 percent profit margins.

Since I broke this story two days ago, media executives have weighed in to confirm that The Hollywood Reporter, along with the other 41 titles at Nielsen Business Media, is indeed for sale. This, despite the on-the-record denial of Gerry Byrne, who heads the entertainment group of the Nielsen Company division.

Perhaps the directors of the six private equity firms that acquired the Nielsen Company in 2006 - the Blackstone Group, the Carlyle Group, Hellman & Friedman, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, AlphInvest Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners, known collectively as Valcon - haven't told him. Either way, they are keeping the matter discreet.

On the top floor of media companies, however, it's not a secret. According to a media executive with direct knowledge of the meeting, a principal in one of the Valcon private equity firms floated the idea of a purchase by The New York Times at a meeting of the Times' board of directors this week. (I cannot reveal the identity of the executive to protect the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.)

But that doesn't sound like the right fit to me. The New York Times is not in the business-to-business business. And I'm not sure why a big media company saddled with a core print business would take on more dead-tree properties.

Another source with direct knowledge of the Valcon purchase from the Dutch publishing entity VNU in 2006 tells me that each of the six private equity firms has the right of first refusal to bid on the business media unit. Others have written to say - without proof, so I pass it along as speculation - that there is a long-term plan by Valcon to buy Variety as the crown jewel of the Reed Elsevier b-to-b trade papers, and then circle back and buy Nielsen Business Media.

The plan? To make Hollywood a one-trade town.



The New York Times owns Baseline StudioSystems, which is already in the Hollywood business-to-business business. This acquisition might act as a complement.

Ellen Winter

For a brief time period in the 90's, The NYT had a stake in the former BPI properties through their purchase of the old Affiliated Publications and the Boston Globe. I can't imagine this would be of interest to them at this stage although why is the NYT going into the wine business.

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