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Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and other publications to be sold to consortium

An investor group including James Finkelstein, whose company controls political publications in Washington, also agrees to buy Adweek, Back Stage and trade shows in a deal with Nielsen Business Media.

December 11, 2009|By Amy Kaufman and Ben Fritz

After months of speculation about their future, entertainment-industry newspaper the Hollywood Reporter, music-industry magazine Billboard and five other publications owned by Nielsen Business Media have been sold.

Their new owner is a consortium of investors led by James Finkelstein, whose News Communications Inc. controls the Washington political newspaper the Hill and the Who's Who directories. Finkelstein himself also owns Thompson Publishing Group Inc., which puts out niche publications about government regulations.

The sale comes during a period of upheaval for longtime purveyors of entertainment-industry news.

The Hollywood Reporter has recently been plagued by a decline in advertising as studios spend less on "For Your Consideration" campaigns leading up to the Oscar race that have traditionally been the financial bulwark of the Hollywood business publications.

News sources covering the industry have also become fiercely competitive: The "trades" must go up against fledgling online outlets that often break news at a rapid-fire pace -- all at a time when the movie, television and music businesses themselves are shrinking and are cutting back employees who are the targeted readers. Meanwhile, the Reporter's biggest rival, Variety, said this week it was putting up a pay wall around its content, charging for news in print and online.

Finkelstein is expected to visit Nielsen's Los Angeles office in the coming days. On Thursday, he declined to comment on the deal but said in a joint statement with Todd Boehly, managing partner at financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, that the team was "excited to acquire such a premier collection of media properties . . . that are already leaders in their respective fields."

At the Hill, Finkelstein spearheaded a change to the publication's production schedule, moving it from a weekly release to a four-day release on days Congress is in session. Throughout the last year, there have been reports that the Reporter could become a weekly print publication, though the daily schedule is expected to at least remain through the completion of Oscar season in March, according to people familiar with the situation. In recent months, the trade has slightly ratcheted down its print output -- opting not to publish the week of Thanksgiving and days including Veterans Day and Earth Day.

The acquisition is officially being done by E5 Global Media, a new company led by Finkelstein as chairman. It was formed for the purpose of the acquisition by Guggenheim Partners and Pluribus Capital Management, a private equity fund focused on media and led by Finkelstein, Matthew Doull, a former associate publisher of Wired UK, and George Green, former chief executive of Hearst Magazines International.

Lachlan Murdoch, son of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, was previously reported to be part of the acquisition but was not involved in the final deal, for which financial details were not disclosed.

Finkelstein's group is also acquiring Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, the Clio Awards, Back Stage and Film Journal International. In addition, E5 is buying the somewhat beleaguered Film Expo business, which includes the ShoWest, ShowEast, Cinema Expo International and CineAsia trade shows.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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