Looks like Rupert Murdoch can’t acquire everything he wants. “Sorry can’t buy Trib group or LA Times — cross-ownership laws from another age still in place,” he tweeted overnight. He salivated over Tribune‘s papers which include the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, as well as the Los Angeles Times. The parent company has wanted to sell them, and now plans to spin them off in a separate entity that will be publicly traded beginning August 4.
Murdoch still has plenty to keep him busy: Fox disclosed this week that it made an $80B offer for Time Warner, which the company rejected. And News Corp — Murdoch’s publishing company — is eyeing Time Inc, the publishing company that Time Warner just spun off. Read More »
Another round of layoffs has hit the LA Times as parent Tribune Co. looks to unload the newspaper along with seven others. Multiple reports say Friday’s cuts affected at least 20 staffers, including members of the graphics department and newsroom. Editor Davan Maharaj and Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin described the layoffs as “a modest round of staff reductions” in an internal memo Friday. The same day Tribune Co. revealed that its net income dove 41% in the first quarter from $99.1M last year to $58.4M, with its newspaper unit sliding 9% to $254 million in ad revenue. Variety was first to report the cuts.
According to the Orange County Register, the financial books for the entire Tribune Co newspaper group are expected to be sent out any day now. It’s the first step in the bidding process. “The anticipated sale of the Los Angeles Times and seven other Tribune Co newspapers is shaping up as a battle of the titans with at least four big-money bidders expected to be in the running for what media experts say could be a $1 billion deal.” The billionaire Koch brothers confirmed last week they are interested in acquiring newspapers though did not specify which ones. Other potential LA Times buyers cited by analysts include Rupert Murdoch, Eli Broad, Ron Burkle and Austin Beutner (a former Los Angeles deputy mayor and Wall Street big bucks guy), and Aaron Kushner (CEO of Freedom Communications Inc which owns the Orange County Register). Tribune Co hired two investment banks in February to consider the offers and various options. Media experts expect a deal to be done by year’s end. But “there’s also the possibility nothing will happen,” the OC Register noted. “Tribune CEO Peter Liguori has said the Tribune board may decide to keep the newspapers, although most experts believe that is unlikely.”
NewsCorp.’s Rupert Murdoch and a coalition of buyers led by Ron Burkle and Eli Broad have been eyeing the Tribune Co. sale. But sources tell the NYT that Koch Industries, led by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, could have a leg up on other bidders if they make an offer for all eight of Tribune’s regional papers including the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. Apparently the Koch Bros are only interested in newspapers – not the TV stations – for now.
UPDATE, 2:30 PM: Tribune says that it has hired JP Morgan Chase and Evercore to investigate the market. “There is a lot of interest in our newspapers, which we haven’t solicited,” SVP Gary Weitman says. “Hiring outside financial advisers will help us determine whether that interest is credible, allow us to consider all of our options, and fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and employees.”
PREVIOUS, 10:43 AM: It’s not a surprise that the company, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of last year, is looking to sell its publishing assets. These include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune – Rupert Murdoch is known to be interested in those papers — as well as the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinal and Hartford Courant. CNBC reports today that Tribune Co’s Career Builder website likely would be included in a sale, and that Evercore and JPMorgan will be the bankers to lead an auction over the coming weeks. Tribune last month hired former Fox and Discovery exec Peter Liguori as CEO; the company has 23 TV stations.
This process should tell us whether the money people believe metropolitan dailies have much life left. Tribune, which is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection at year end, is looking for a banker to help sell its eight newspapers which include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg reports. Rupert Murdoch is known to be interested in those two papers as he prepares to split off News Corp‘s publishing operations — including The Wall Street Journal and New York Post — into a publicly traded company. Last week Murdoch said that WSJ Managing Editor Robert Thomson will run the publishing group, which will retain the News Corp name. (The company with the entertainment assets will be called Fox Group.) Thomson said he intends to “lead a broader revenue renaissance for quality content.” In addition to the Chicago and Los Angeles papers, Tribune owns the Baltimore Sun, Sun Sentinel of South Florida, The Orlando Sentinel, The Hartford Courant, The Morning Call, and The Daily Press. It also owns 23 television stations.
2ND UPDATE: ‘Hero Complex’ blogger Geoff Boucher tonight finally acknowledged he is leaving the Los Angeles Times. He said on Twitter:
@geoffboucher: Interviewed Clint Eastwood over on the Warner Bros lot today…great way to go out.
@MYGEEKTIME: ”going out”? are u leaving LA TIMES?
@geoffboucher: Yes after 21 years.
UPDATE 5:30 PM: Back on August 23rd I scooped the news from a reliable Hollywood source that Geoff Boucher was moving on from his position as the Los Angeles Times ‘Hero Complex’ blogger for reasons unclear. To date there has been no announcement from Boucher or the paper. (Although at one point Boucher was checking to see if his company Twitter account was still working…) Today I’ve obtained an internal email not for public consumption from a top LA Times entertainment editor that confirms in the subject line, “No maybe about it: Geoff is leaving.” I said it last month and I’ll repeat it now: this is a huge loss for the paper and it follows on the heels of longtime movie columnist Patrick Goldstein taking a buyout instead of working for the new editorial leadership. According to my sources, the new editorial leadership is hell-bent on pushing out those LA Times writers with the biggest salaries and/or the strongest opinions. I know of at least four other big-ticket columnists/reporters who are under pressure.
‘Hero Complex’ is a great blog, Boucher is an expert in all things comics, and I truly envy his extensive knowledge about Marvel and DC … Read More »
UPDATE: About 10 minutes after I posted this, Geoff Boucher tweeted about hanging up on me. He still hasn’t confirmed his departure:
@geoffboucher - Shortest phone call ever: “Hi. It’s Nikki Finke, I heard you’re leaving The Times.” “I’m not a fan.” Click.
PREVIOUS: Geoff Boucher wouldn’t confirm or deny it on the phone to me just now. But a reliable Hollywood source tells me tonight that the Los Angeles Times ‘Hero Complex’ blogger is moving on for reasons unclear. This would be a huge loss for the paper and it follows on the heels of longtime movie columnist Patrick Goldstein taking a buyout instead of working for the new editorial leadership. ’Hero Complex’ is a great blog, Boucher is an expert in all things comics, and as Indiewire’s Anne Thompson wrote recently, “The LAT‘s Geoff Boucher is the new model entertainment writer, constantly creating and repurposing and sending out new material online, via his ‘Hero Complex’ blog. Boucher came to the LAT in 1991 and, after years covering crime and local politics, he switched to the Hollywood beat covering film and music and then became the paper’s go-to geek. As someone who didn’t grow up with Marvel or DC comics, I truly envied Boucher’s extensive knowledge about his beat evident in everything he wrote. Boucher’s exit follows Editor Davan Maharaj’s arrival and then a new entertainment editorial team announced June 20th. That … Read More »
My sources say longtime Los Angeles Times movie columnist Patrick Goldstein decided to take a buyout rather than work for the new leadership at the newspaper announced earlier this year. “He felt there was no more future for him there. It was obvious since all the new people think about is driving web traffic. They’re trying to put everyone to work doing that,” my source says. Wednesday’s edition of the LAT is Goldstein’s last column for that media outlet. No public announcement was made, and my source says about the lack of any explanation, “part of his going away deal is that he can’t disparage the new leadership”.
Goldstein’s thoughtful and knowledgeable and deeply sourced column appeared in the newspaper regularly and was one of the few remaining reasons left to read Calendar these days. But over the years he resisted many attempts to turn him into a daily Internet reporter. His resignation follows Editor Davan Maharaj’s arrival and then a new entertainment editorial team announced June 20th. That was like moving deck chairs on the Titanic given that the newspaper has become lazy and irrelevant and its showbiz ads have fallen 25% every year as studio and theater chains abandon the publication.
Related: LA Times Business Editor Becoming Entertainment Czar
Related: LA Times Exits Longtime Showbiz Editor
Goldstein began writing “The Big Picture” back in 2000 but started on the newspaper first as a music freelancer and then Calendar staffer and eventually prestigious movie columnist. In 2007 he was the subject of an editorial flap when the paper’s then Calendar top dog killed one of his columns. In what now seems prescient, Goldstein told me at the time, “I love working at a newspaper, especially this one, but if we don’t start embracing change in a big way, there won’t be great jobs like the one I have much longer.” Read More »
UPDATE: Los Angeles Times Editor Davan Maharaj today announced ”a new leadership team for one of the most important journalistic franchises at The Times”. Granted, this is like moving deck chairs on the Titanic given that the newspaper has become lazy and irrelevant and its showbiz ads fall 25% every year as movies and even theater chains abandon the publication. And those are readers and advertisers who aren’t coming back, either. Nevertheless John Corrigan, who has been Business Editor since 2009, will top the newspaper’s arts and entertainment coverage starting Monday as an assistant managing editor. He replaces Sallie Hofmeister whom Maharaj recently exited. (Related: LA Times Exits Longtime Showbiz Editor)
In other moves, Laurie Ochoa, the former editor of LA Weekly, becomes the LA Times‘ Arts and Entertainment Editor reporting to Corrigan. And TV critic Mary McNamara now has the additional title of Senior Culture Editor.
But there was no announcement confirming what former LA Times Arts And Entertainment editor Craig Turner today wrote on his Facebook page: “It looks like the Business section is being downgraded again, and will cease to exist as a stand-alone section, folding into the A section. As a result, Calendar will get some later deadlines and all the Company Town stories — on business of entertainment — will appear in Calendar, not Business.”
Assistant Managing Editor for Arts & Entertainment Sallie Hofmeister has been the person most responsible for the Los Angeles Times‘ lazy and irrelevant coverage of Hollywood. The good news for the newspaper is that she’s now been forced out by the recently installed new editor Davan Maharaj who has a history of hating on her. But the bad news for the newspaper is that it’s lost too much momentum under her tenure to ever get it back. Hofmeister guided arts and entertainment coverage for the last three years. According to today’s bullshit announcement, “She says that, after 25 years in newspaper journalism, she wants a summer off before embarking on a new career challenge.” The truth is she was given a grace period to look for a job. Her last day will be June 22. Maharaj in a note to staff says, “an announcement of her successor will be forthcoming”.
Hofmeister joined the LAT in 1995 from The New York Times to cover the business of television. In 2006, she became an editor overseeing entertainment and technology coverage. She was named business editor in 2008 and, less than a year later, joined the masthead as an assistant managing editor responsible for arts and entertainment. Hofmeister succeeded in dumbing down the newspaper with blogs like the Ministry of Gossip and another devoted to American Idol. And now the paper’s Envelope is a Red Carpet joke. Meanwhile, the LAT‘s film advertising is down 25% below even the most modest of projections, and now many movies and now suddenly … Read More »
Thanks to FishbowlLA for alerting me to this: LATimes.com will no longer be free. Today, the newsosaur Los Angeles Times announced plans for an online subscription service. It will cost $3.99 a week for non-subscribers. For this you get lazy and irrelevant coverage of Hollywood.
If it’s Tuesday there must be a new Los Angeles Times top editor. Not that it’ll matter to Hollywood since the newspaper’s entertainment business coverage remains smug, lazy, and uninformed. Editor Russ Stanton will step down as the Editor/EVP on December 23 after four years and Managing Editor Davan Maharaj will take over the top newsroom job. He’ll become the paper’s 15th editor and is a 22-year LAT veteran. The official statement from LAT President/COO Officer Kathy Thomson in the paper only says Stanton “moves on to the next phase of his career”. During Stanton’s tenure, the LAT newsroom staff shrank from more than 900 people to about 550. As much as Stanton tried to make the LAT a bigger online presence, his leadership emphasized celebrity over substance in entertainment coverage. The result is that the newsosaur is now irrelevant in the Hollywood community and the proof is in the LAT‘s dwindling movie and TV advertising revenues.
Jason James Murphy served a five-year prison term for kidnapping and abusing an 8-year-old boy near Seattle, but has been working for a decade as Jason James hiring kids as a casting assistant for productions including Super 8, Bad News Bears, The School Of Rock, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and the upcoming film The Three Stooges, the LA Times reports. Police said that they have no reason to believe that he molested anyone else; he is cooperating with their investigation into whether he complied with laws that apply to registered sex offenders — including that they report within five days when they use an alias. The law also bars sex offenders from working directly with unaccompanied minors. The fact that he has had so much power and opportunity to victimize kids has child protection advocates up in arms: Several say that they want unions to screen people who work with children, and to have them submit to background checks and fingerprinting. Murphy is a member of Teamsters Local 399 since 2008. The union and casting directors told the paper that they were unaware of Murphy’s background. “It’s shocking and it’s devastating, not just as a filmmaker but as a father and someone who is entrusted to make sure that everyone I work with, especially children, are safe,” Super 8 director J.J. Abrams said. “To think that someone like this was among us is unthinkable.”
It’s been nearly three years since real estate magnate Sam Zell drove Tribune to seek bankruptcy protection — the result of his disastrous $8.2B leveraged buyout transactions in 2007. But the broadcasting, publishing and Internet power says its days in the penalty box may soon be over: The company filed a third amended reorganization plan at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware yesterday that it says has the support of senior unsecured creditors Oaktree Capital Management; Angelo, Gordon & Co; and JPMorgan Chase Bank. The document, released late last night, says that Tribune will ask the court at a conference on Tuesday to hold a December 13 hearing on the proposal, setting it up to be confirmed in February. The media company has “been in bankruptcy too long,” it said in a court filing. Although Tribune owes creditors about $13B, the new proposal says it “incorporates a protocol for resolution of the few remaining disputes.” These disagreements mostly involve how to split $534M owed to junior credit holders including hedge fund Aurelius Capital Management — and Zell. The new plan would let the junior lenders make that decision, which the court could adjust later if it wants. Tribune’s media holdings include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and 23 TV stations.
UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times began another round of buyouts and layoffs extending into August. And all because of what internal sources say is a dramatic shortfall in movie advertising revenue. “Film advertising is down -25% under the projections for this time of year. Display advertising generally is way down at the paper, but the movie ads have declined the most and that’s important because film is the LA Times‘s largest advertising category,” an insider tells me. “In general the movie industry is advertising less in newspapers, but the studios seem especially averse to advertising in the diminished Calendar section which drove out most of the veterans and brought in all these kids with zero insight into Hollywood.” No movie staffers were included in today’s layoffs even if higher-paid journalists were targeted and Calendar has several of the highest paid in its employ. But if the current trend keeps on, who knows?
The LA Times spokeswoman today claims the buyouts/layoffs “were in part a reaction to the overall difficult economic environment as well as a downsizing in select areas of our business in order to add resources in
others as we continue to evolve.” But I’ve chronicled this bad news development on movie ads ever since 2005 when Hollywood studios began rethinking their reliably humongous display ad buys in the major newspapers because those readers are, to quote one mogul, “older and elitist” compared to younger, low-brow filmgoers — so it made no sense to waste the dough.
Thank you, Los Angeles Times… Now those are 5 words I never thought my fingers would type. And yet the paper’s Patrick Goldstein just wrote some very nice praise for Deadline in — of all places — Sunday Calendar.
“Finke has been joined by a group of talented reporters from old-line trade publications like Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, including Mike Fleming and Nellie Andreeva, and Deadline has morphed into the industry’s must-read digital bulletin board… For decades, Variety ruled the showbiz roost, using its own form of leverage to score scoops until Finke came along to upset the apple cart. She out-traded the trades and turned a tenuous operation into a serious business.”
As for what Goldstein writes about my own reporting, it’s nonsense. As I told him, “One minute I read how I’m bullying everyone and the next minute you claim I’m going soft. I’ll never make you people happy. I’m still me. I haven’t changed at all. Everyone knows I’m an equal opportunity [offender.]” Actually, the word I used was “bitchslapper”. And that’s why I started Deadline: to inject some full-contact honesty into showbiz coverage. I’m going to keep doing exactly that.
Tribune Co today announced that it has tapped Los Angeles Times publisher and CEO Eddy Hartenstein as its president and CEO. The former DirecTV chief is an interesting guy, but it’s hard not to think of rearranged deck chairs, etc., since he is keeping his LA Times responsibilities and Tribune, which still owns 23 television stations, has yet to emerge from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Maybe this is one of those seat-filler things?