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Ross Levinsohn Leaves Guggenheim Digital Media: Report

By | Tuesday June 10, 2014 @ 11:33am PDT

Ross LevinsohnGuggenheim won’t comment about Ross Levinsohn‘s departure, first reported by Re/code. But the development has been long expected, even though the former Yahoo interim CEO has only been at the investment firm’s media operation — which includes The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and Dick Clark Productions — since January 2013. When it hired Levinsohn, Guggenheim said that it planned to allocate “significant capital to acquire and invest in new media companies and properties that will meaningfully expand its current portfolio.” But it became clear by late last year that he had lost his mojo at the company. In November, Michel Protti – who was Levinsohn’s chief of staff at Yahoo – announced his plan to leave as Guggenheim Digital’s SVP Strategy and Operations to become Director of Emerging Business at Facebook. Then, in January, he lost Zander Lurie, a former CFO and M&A guy at CBS Interactive, who had joined in 2013 to help with Levinsohn’s expansion plans at Guggenheim Digital. He also lost control of THR and Billboard when Guggenheim Media promoted Janice Min to Chief Creative Officer of its Entertainment Group, which includes the magazines, with John Amato serving as co-president overseeing business affairs.

Related: Guggenheim Digital Media Loses Another Top Exec

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Guggenheim Digital Media Loses Another Top Exec

Zander LurieEXCLUSIVE: EVP Zander Lurie has confirmed that he plans to leave Guggenheim Digital Media. That will make him the second of CEO Ross Levinsohn’s top lieutenants to bolt over the past three months, and company watchers are wondering how long the former Yahoo interim CEO will remain at the firm that owns The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek, Dick Clark Productions and other entertainment properties. Lurie, a former CFO and M&A guy at CBS Interactive, joined last February to help with Levinsohn’s expansion plans at Guggenheim Digital, owned by financial services firm Guggenheim Partners. A year ago tomorrow — when Guggenheim announced that it had hired Levinsohn — it said that it planned to allocate “significant capital to acquire and invest in new media companies and properties that will meaningfully expand its current portfolio.” But Levinsohn appears to have lost his mojo. In November Michel Protti – who was Levinsohn’s chief of staff at Yahoo – announced his plan to leave as Guggenheim Digital’s SVP Strategy and Operations to become Director of Emerging Business at Facebook. Last week, Levinsohn lost control of THR and Billboard as Guggenheim Media promoted Janice Min to Chief Creative Officer of its Entertainment Group, which includes the magazines, with John Amato serving as co-president overseeing business affairs. Both report to Guggenheim Partners President Todd Boehly, as does Levinsohn. A company rep declined comment on Levinsohn’s status.

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Curveball Over LA Dodgers TV Deal For Guggenheim And Major League Baseball

Few consumers are welcoming the new Los Angeles Dodgers/Time Warner Cable TV deal because they’re going to get screwed out of more hard-earned money per month. They can thank Guggenheim Partners which bought the Dodgers with an ownership group including Magic Johnson and Peter Guber for $2.15 billion last year. Guggenheim plans to carry the games on a new regional sports network it’ll own called SportsNetLA. It’s got Time Warner Cable doing the heavy lifting as its charter distributor, exclusive advertising and affiliate sales agent, and channel operations manager. But now there’s a problem: the January deal has yet even to be submitted to Major League Baseball for approval. The reason is that MLB wants to know exactly what its cut of the $7 billion, 25-year television deal will be. And Guggenheim looks like it’s trying to pitch curveballs to the league. Trust me, if you think Hollywood studios are greedy, you’ve never seen sports team owners or their leagues. So this is greed vs greedier vs greediest.

To summarize what’s in dispute, the current collective bargaining agreement’s base portion of the revenue-sharing plan calls on MLB teams to contribute 34% of net local revenue. But the way that figure gets calculated is becoming increasingly blurred by stuff like these regional sports networks and who owns them. Guggenheim’s deal is even blurrier. So now everything from rights fees, naming rights, guaranteed carriage money, and other revenue expected to go into Guggenheim’s wallet can be picked by MLB’s revenue-sharing plan. That’s the crux … Read More »

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Last Shoe Drops: The Hollywood Reporter’s Jimmy Finkelstein Finally Removed — Is Sale Next?

Guggenheim Partners today announced the hiring of a badly needed digital media CEO, presumably to put some fiscal diet discipline over its assets including The Hollywood Reporter‘s bloat. In the process it has removed the last remaining Prometheus Media equity owner managing THR after its 2010 purchase. Gone with the wind is Jimmy Finkelstein, who tried unsuccessfully to turn the publication into a profitable venture. Guggenheim announced that it has acquired the remaining stake in Prometheus Media from Pluribus Capital, which was founded by Finkelstein, who previously served as  Chairman of Prometheus Media. So here’s what happened: it’s been well known that the disliked Finkelstein clashed often with Guggenheim, which for the past year installed its own bean-counters to monitor the celebrity sheet. And inexplicably in July Guggenheim placed Dottie Mattison in charge, even though she is known for loving the Red Carpet limelight more than overseeing the journalism of the job. Finkelstein had a reputation around the Reporter as a nasty piece of work, so there will be lots of dry eyes to see him go. He never understood that, to make the publication profitable, costs had to be slashed and not constantly soared, to Guggenheim’s horror. The fault lies with Guggenheim’s Todd Boehly, whose lousy idea it was to buy into Hollywood — and now can’t wait to get out so he can continue investing in sports. (His newly acquired Dick Clark Prods just effed-up Sunday’s Golden Globes production-wise.)

One of the problems was that Finkelstein, who owned legal trades years ago, overestimated his own ability to turn a profit in today’s crowded consumer media marketplace. Although it’s true that The Hollywood Reporter has enlarged its one-off traffic, it still is not widely consumed by the entertainment community. Instead Hollywood and the businesses that rely on it are addicted to lean and mean Deadline Hollywood, which focuses exclusively on showbiz instead of celebrity. THR‘s plan under original Prometheus Media CEO Richard Beckman was to publish a subscription-based magazine. That quickly fizzled, and the Reporter print edition is distributed free for the most part (and to zip codes like Florida). Beckman, who was hired in 2010, was demoted in 2011 and then kicked to the curb in June. Finkelstein would have met the same fate earlier except he was an equity owner in Prometheus Media and convinced naive Guggenheim to let him try to affect a turnaround. Now his removal paves the way for Guggenheim to finally sell the Hollywood trade, something the investor has wanted to do almost from the beginning of its asset acquisition which was always plotted as a fixer-upper to be flipped.

Meanwhile, Penkse Media Corp (owner of Deadline Hollywood) is still waging its lawsuit against The Hollywood Reporter for copyright infringement.

Here’s Guggenheim’s release today: Read More »

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Time Warner Says THR/Barry Meyer Claims “Complete Fabrication”

The Hollywood Reporter has really hurt their credibility. I don’t understand how they could write that stuff. It isn’t true,” Time Warner told me. The Hollywood Reporter Jeffrey BewkesThe strong denial was about a July 11th THR article claiming that Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes recently asked Warner Bros chairman and CEO Barry Meyer to remain on the job beyond his scheduled December 2013 departure date – and the veteran executive declined. THR hangs it on ”a knowledgeable source”. Time Warner explained to me, “This story is a complete fabrication. We could not lie about it. Why would we lie about this? Because it’s going to come out one way or the other. Everybody who talked to the Reporter explained that no part of this is true – but they kept writing. How ridiculous.” As for who replaces Barry Meyer, that is if anyone replaces him, ”There’s not even any need to make a decision at the end of 2013.” My own opinion is that the three Warner Bros division heads who make up the Office Of The President — Jeff Robinov, Bruce Rosenblum, Kevin Tsujihara (in alphabetical order) — could continue comfortably like that reporting to Bewkes for years.

One of the main reasons The Hollywood Reporter has lost many millions of dollars (informed sources even put the figure as high as $10 million since it got into business with Guggenheim Partners) is that it’s no longer trusted by the Hollywood community. That’s what happens … Read More »

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Dodgers Bankruptcy-Exit Hearing April 13

By | Saturday April 7, 2012 @ 7:01am PDT

The bankruptcy judge in the Los Angeles Dodgers case has scheduled a hearing April 13 to consider whether to confirm the revised Chapter 11 plan filed yesterday, ESPN reports. The Dodgers said the team is on track to exit bankruptcy as planned by April 30. The plan is based on the agreement by Magic Johnson- and baseball exec Stan Johnson-led Guggenheim Baseball Management to purchase the Dodgers for more than $2 billion, which the team contends will allow payment of all allowed creditor claims in full. Purchase price includes about $412 million of existing debt financing. The balance will be paid the current owner Frank McCourt from equity financing by owners and affiliates of Guggenheim, which has provided a cash deposit of about $159 million. The April 30 date was part of a settlement between the Dodgers and Major League Baseball. The date coincides with the deadline for McCourt to pay $131 million to his ex-wife, Jamie, under terms of their divorce. If necessary, however, the Dodgers can seek MLB approval to extend the closing date.

Related: Magic Johnson’s Group Wins Bidding To Buy Dodgers For Record $2B

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Big Names Continue To Emerge As Groups Gather To Bid For Dodgers

L.A. Lakers icon Magic Johnson is the latest big entertainment name to throw his hat in the ring to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, which are currently in bankruptcy protection and could be about a month away from holding an auction to sell the franchise. The NBA Hall of Famer probably won’t be the latest high-profile star to attach himself to a potential ownership group — Johnson’s team, confirmed today, is a Santa Monica-based group of private investors known as Guggenheim Baseball Management, which includes Mark Walter, CEO of financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, and veteran baseball exec Stan Kasten — as bidders jockey for position in an auction in which the team will likely fetch more than $1 billion. (Johnson and his Magic Johnson Enterprises sold his ownership stake in the Lakers last year and also is part of the group that is trying to bring the NFL to downtown Los Angeles, so he’s definitely a serious player.) Other big names being bandied about as part of separate possible Dodgers ownership groups include Dallas Mavericks and HDNet’s billionaire owner Mark Cuban — he tried to buy the Chicago Cubs from Tribune a year ago — and former CNN host Larry King. Those kind of high-profile figures also don’t hurt in boosting the Dodgers’ profile as networks prepare to take a crack at landing the team’s lucrative local TV rights, which could mean a $3 billion windfall to the financially strapped team — if the courts can ever decide how that process will unfold. Read More »

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UPDATE: Prometheus Selling ‘Back Stage’; The Hollywood Reporter’s Parent Company “Dropping Assets Like Flies Now”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Parent Company Continues To Cost Cut: Prometheus Pulled Plug On Hollywood Creative Directory

UPDATE: Prometheus Global Media is now confirming what I reported last night; that it’s unloading yet another showbiz asset. Instead of calling this a sale, it’s calling this a financial “alliance” with a group of investors led by John Amato who used to be president of a NYC taxi advertising company called Show Media. Amato now becomes CEO of Back Stage. When Prometheus couldn’t sell the media outlet outright, Prometheus joint owner Guggenheim Partners put up most of the money for the investor group to buy it. ”They are going to position it as not a sale, but as a strategic partnership. But this is not true: Guggenheim is doing debt financing and holding a carried minority interest, but this new group is assuming control (including control of board),” one of my insiders tells me. Though no financial details were announced, insiders tell me the investor group is putting up $5 million and Guggenheim is financing $10M to $15M more. “Again, they are trying to pretend it’s not a sale for PR reasons, but in any other company it would be regarded as a sale,” the source said. Explained another insider, “They’re dropping assets like flies now.”

EXCLUSIVE SUNDAY 11 PM: The Hollywood Reporter’s parent company is … Read More »

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