The frontrunner to buy 107-year-old entertainment industry trade Variety is New York billionaire Marc Lasry’s Avenue Capital hedge fund, according to The New York Post. A source reports that Variety parent company Reed Business Information has accepted a bid between $30 million and $40 million. An official deal announcement is expected this week.
Variety had been for sale since March. Avenue has made various publishing investments, from buying debt in Tribune Co. to going after Newsweek. (The NYT's David Carr explains why weekly magazines are not in a good place.)
While Variety can be relieved that niether trade rivals The Hollywood Reporter nor Jay Penske's Deadline Hollywood wound up with the publication, It is still depressing to consider that Tiffany-brand Variety's backroom operations, if the sale goes through, will likely be contracted out to Avenue-controlled American Media Inc., which publishes tabloids National Enquirer and Star Magazine and also handles Playboy's operations.
Late entrant Avenue seems to have outbid both Jimmy Finkelstein (co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Adweek along with Guggenheim Partners) and supermarket biilionaire Ron Burkle.
Variety is a trusted brand but has failed to stay ahead of the online curve; the struggling publication let go of top talent as its firewall drove many readers away. (I launched this blog at Variety before its Draconian cutbacks.) Lasry will also have to sock more money into this investment if he is going to bring it back to competitive strength.