Two longtime tinseltown rivals, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, will soon be part of the same team thanks to a merger unveiled Wednesday by their publishers.
Penske Media Corp., which publishes Variety, is merging with MRC to form a new company to be called PMRC. The deal, effective immediately, gives PMC CEO Jay Penske control of the trade titles, which is largest part of the operation. MRC, run by co-CEOs Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk, will control a slice of the company that operates a TV and movie production studio.
The new PMRC will operate PMC’s Variety, Rolling Stone and Music Business Worldwide and combine it with MRC’s The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe. PMRC’s day-to-day operations will be led by PMC, whose other brands include Deadline, WWD, SHE Media, Sportico and Robb Report.
PMC is cash rich thanks to a $200 million infusion from the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund in 2018, which drew controversy when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was fingered by US intelligence agencies as having played a role in ordering the killing of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. In 2016, Conde Nast had held discussions to buy The Hollywood Reporter for around $125 million, but the talks broke down because Todd Boehly, the principal behind the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard at the time, was looking for a higher price tag.
Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have been racked by internal dissension of late. Variety’s editor-in-chief Claudia Ellers announced a leave of absence in June due to a heated Twitter exchange over a column she had written on racial diversity or lack thereof in the Variety newsroom.
THR’s Editorial Director Matt Belloni resigned in April over what he said were clashes with management over “fundamental priorities and strategies.”
Although it’s being played as a joint venture, it does appear that Penske, who has long coveted THR, has control of the lion’s share of the business.
Of the new titles under the umbrella, Penske said, “These are all brands I’ve long admired. Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter and Vibe have created some of the finest content in their respective industries and have contributed immensely to the heightened quality of journalism covering entertainment and music today.”
MRC will have control of a smaller TV and movie production that insiders had complained presented a source of conflict with the journalism side of MRC’s business because of reporting on Hollywood and music people working with on those projects.
According to Satchu and Wiczyk, the new content partnership will be “tasked with mining the collective brand IP across all of its content divisions including television, film, live and alternative, and nonfiction. MRC’s titles include shows such as “Ozark,” “The Great” and “The Outsider”; live events including the Golden Globe Awards, the Billboard Music Awards and the American Music Awards; and films such as “Knives Out,” “Ted” and “Baby Driver.” The long-form content alliance will be managed by MRC and operate out of its offices.
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