$1.5 bil bid may be on table for publisher

NEW YORK — Ziff-Davis Inc., the diversified publisher of computer trade magazines that’s looking for a buyer, has reportedly approached News Corp., although the two companies may not be in active negotiations — yet.

According to a report in the Observer of London on Monday, News Corp. is considering a $1.5 billion bid for Ziff-Davis, spurred on by James Murdoch, the youngest son of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch. Ziff-Davis would be worth about $1.65 billion based on Monday’s closing share price. That includes an 8% jump in the stock due mainly to the Observer item.

The report claimed that News Corp. is interested mainly in Ziff-Davis’ Internet operations.

Ziff-Davis hired investment bank Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in July to explore strategic options for the company, which would include alliances, a merger or sale of all or part of the company. But in a statement Monday, Ziff-Davis denied that it is in full-blown talks with “any particular entity to sell the company or any part of the company.” It did say, however, that “the exploration process is moving forward” and “a substantial number of parties have indicated initial interest.”

Ziff-Davis has already done one deal. It agreed Aug. 31 to sell its ZD Market Intelligence business to Harte-Hanks for $100 million.

The shares closed Monday up $1.19 at $15.94.

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