News Corp. is near a deal to sell its conservative political magazine the Weekly Standard to media mogul Philip Anschutz, according to people familiar with the situation.
Launched in 1995 and edited by William Kristol and Fred Barnes, the Weekly Standard has been a pet political project of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Although its circulation, according to the magazine's website (it hasn't been audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations since 1996) is only 83,000, the Weekly Standard reaches the upper echelon of Capitol Hill insiders and has given the media mogul cachet among the Washington elite. By comparison, the liberal-leaning New Republic magazine has about 60,000 subscribers, while the granddaddy of conservative Washington commentary, National Review, has a circulation above 180,000.
Now that Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal, however, whose conservative editorial page covers a much bigger political footprint, he may no longer really need the Weekly Standard, which carries a similar message but to a considerably smaller audience. Murdoch's own political views seem to have swung more toward the center over the last few years, and that too might be a factor in his decision to sell.
News Corp., like all media conglomerates, has been scrutinizing its assets. In a healthier economy, holding on to the magazine, which was never intended to be a big moneymaker for the company, wouldn't be an issue. But in today's difficult economic climate, particularly for print media, owning a small niche magazine may not be a priority.
A representative for News Corp. declined to comment. A representative for Anschutz could not be reached.
For Anschutz, whose AEG owns and operates some of the biggest sports arenas in the country (including L.A.'s Staples Center) as well as numerous sports franchises (such as the Los Angeles Kings) and a few production studios (including Walden Media, Bristol Bay Productions), the Weekly Standard may seem like an odd acquisition.
But Anschutz, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be close to $8 billion, has long been an advocate of conservative causes, and owning the Weekly Standard could boost his political influence even further.