National Enquirer owner American Media Inc. looks set to take over the celebrity mag US Weekly after the colllapse of a bid from Tronc says the New York Post, citing Media Ink.
“It’s a done deal,” one source reportedly said.
"It is a stunning turn of events that has sent a new round of panic through the ranks at Us Weekly, currently owned by publishing magnate Jann Wenner," said the Post. "The fear is that up to 100 layoffs may ensue."
One source of concern : the editorial environment as staff move from the left-leaning Wenner Media operation into one controlled by American Media Chief Executive David Pecker, a supporter of President Trump.
Wenner and Pecker were close to a deal for about $90 million several weeks ago, but then Tronc, owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, among other papers, materialized with a bid believed to be around $95 million, said the Post.
Then suddenly, the deal with Tronc, controlled by Executive Chairman Michael Ferro and billionaire investor Patrick Soon-Shiong, "unraveled," according to the Post.
"Tronc, formerly called Tribune Publishing, has an avowed interest in expanding its celebrity news and increasing Web traffic. But it apparently discovered something in the due diligence stage that caused it to back away at the eleventh hour," said the New York paper.
Tronc, Wenner Media and AMI declined to comment.
The news swept through the newsroom on Monday and Tuesday.
“We thought we’d been saved from the slaughterhouse, and now it looks like we face the bloodbath that would come from AMI acquiring us,” one staffer told Media Ink.
“If this is correct, they will only keep a dozen or so of us, which will result in 100 layoffs,” the staffer added.
Sources think an announcement could come as early as this week.
AMI already owns Star, OK! and supermarket tabloids including the Enquirer and Globe as well as the Web site RadarOnline, which it owns in a joint venture with Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Partners.
The auction for Time Inc. — owner of Time, People and Sports Illustrated — is in the home stretch with bids due next week.
The wild card in the race is the bid by Jahm Najafi, a part owner of the Phoenix Suns in a joint bid with Pamplona Capital, first reported by the Wall Street Journal Friday.
One Time Inc. investor speculated that those private equity players are “fronting” for another interested party with media experience. Who that could be remains unknown.