Variety, the struggling but steadfast Hollywood trade publication, is close to finding a buyer, and if all goes as the Los Angeles Times says it will, that could very well be the Penske Media Corporation. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. Number one, Penske is led by Jay Penske, the 33-year-old heir to the Penske automotive fortune. (Then again, LA's always been a car town, hasn't it.) Number two, Penske's present pride and joy is Nikki Finke's Deadline, a scrappy online publication that just happens to be one of Variety's biggest competitors. We're sure they'll get along fine.
The LA Times identified Penske as the leading bidder for Variety on Monday afternoon, but the news shouldn't come as a big surprise. Rumors of Penske's interest in Variety have been bouncing around Hollywood for weeks now. Earlier this month, Penske made some headlines by talking Variety's owner Reed Elsevier into lowering the price by 25 percent, although it was then competing with the deep-pocketed Avenue Capital, owner of the National Enquirer, for the paper. According to the LA Times's sources, though, Avenue Capital submitted a bid less than $25 million, and Penske is prepared to offer close to the asking price of $30 million.
If the deal goes through, it could be a little bit awkward for Variety and Deadline to work under the same roof. The six-year-old Deadline is likely somewhat responsible with the 107-year-old Variety's downfall. Not only did Deadline offer up industry scoops for free after Variety went behind a paywall, but Finke also made a habit of hiring away Variety's reporters to work for her site. Apparently, though, Penske will keep the two brands distinct, and everything will be okay. Heck, maybe the folks at Variety will learn a thing or two from the fast-blogging crew at Deadline. Or maybe not.