Penske's PMC buys Variety; media topper aims to expand on brand's foundation

Variety has changed hands for the second time in its 107-year history. Digital media dynamo Penske Media Corp. completed a deal Oct. 9 with Reed Business Information to acquire the brand hailed by PMC chairman-CEO Jay Penske as “the world’s premier entertainment news source.”

The deal concludes a sale process that began in March, when RBI put the Variety group of assets up for sale as it moved its corporate focus away from advertising-dependent businesses.

PMC has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2004 by Penske to become a major player in the digital entertainment media space through its news outlets Deadline, TVLine, Movieline and HollywoodLife, among others. Penske emphasized that he intends to keep Variety operating as a separate business from his other brands. PMC also has investments in Web content in categories ranging from sports and automotive to health, shopping, fashion and beauty.

“Since 1905, Variety has been the world’s premier entertainment news source, and is today one of the most recognized global media brands,” Penske said. “We are thrilled to welcome Variety and its exceptional team into the PMC organization. As part of this significant acquisition, we plan to rapidly build upon Variety’s foundation while extending this invaluable brand’s presence across the Web, broadcast, mobile and international markets.”

Amid a sea change in the business landscape for all print publications, Variety in recent years has expanded beyond its core print biz to include data services and a fast-growing conference series. The pact with PMC includes the Variety Insight data biz, encompassing the Variety Archives, TVTracker and Flixtracker, as well as the LA 411 industry resource guide.

With the closing of the transaction, Variety prexy Neil Stiles, who oversaw the sale process, has exited his post.

RBI had owned Variety since 1987, when its Cahners Publishing unit bought Daily Variety and weekly Variety from the Silverman family. Sime Silverman founded Variety in 1905 as a Gotham-based weekly paper covering vaudeville and the legit world. The paper expanded to Hollywood in 1933 with the launch of Daily Variety. Four generations of Silvermans steered the business until the Cahners acquisition.

Today, Variety’s print and digital publications have global reach, with offices in L.A., Gotham and London and a network of correspondents stretching from Beijing to Buenos Aires.

Financial specifics of the RBI-PMC deal were not disclosed. Debt and equity financing for the transaction was provided by affiliates of Third Point. Evercore Partners advised RBI parent Reed Elsevier on the sale transaction.

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