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Show biz paper Variety to be sold

February 22, 2008|Alana Semuels | Times Staff Writer

The 103-year-old Hollywood trade paper Variety went on the auction block Thursday when Anglo-Dutch company Reed Elsevier put its publishing unit up for sale.

The company said the planned sale was strategic -- part of a move away from advertising-dependent to subscription-based publications and information services -- and no reflection on the performance of its Reed Business Information unit.

"We've taken the decision to get into less cyclical markets where there's less exposure to advertising," spokesman Patrick Kerr said.

Reed Business Information publishes the Variety papers and hundreds of other periodicals globally, including Broadcasting & Cable and Publishers Weekly. The company's revenue in 2007 was $1.7 billion.

Charlie Koones, who until Dec. 31 oversaw Reed Business Information's entertainment division as the president and publisher of Variety, said the decision to sell illustrated the difficulties facing print publications. While Variety's online advertising revenue grew 82% last year, its print advertising revenue declined, he said, although he didn't say by how much.

"A buyer is going to have to evaluate what kind of investment he wants to make to drive growth," Koones said. He called Variety the "crown jewel" of the unit.

Daily Variety has 37,027 subscribers, while Variety, a weekly, has 21,184, a spokeswoman said. There is also a website, Variety.com.

Variety was founded in 1905 and owned by the Silverman family until 1987, when it was sold for about $60 million to Cahners Publishing Co., a division of Reed International. Sources close to the company said Variety's annual revenue totaled about $100 million.

Reed Elsevier announced the planned sale as it disclosed that it would buy Alpharetta, Ga.-based ChoicePoint Inc., the biggest U.S. provider of information services for the insurance industry, for $3.5 billion, in addition to $0.6 billion in net debt. The company is focusing on serving professional customers in the electronics, health, science and technology industries, Kerr said.

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alana.semuels@latimes.com

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