To some observers of McGraw Hill's (MHP) efforts to sell BusinessWeek, Bloomberg LP always seemed to be a natural fit. Yet the financial information and news company founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg never showed much interest -- until now.
Bloomberg is now "seen as the frontrunner" in an auction for BusinessWeek, according to the New York Post. Bloomberg will have to work "feverishly' to prepare a bid which is due September 15, the paper reported.
The the last-minute decision by the corporate parent of Bloomberg News to bid for the 80-year-old weekly surprised other bidders, the Post said. As a former employee, it surprised me too. When I was at the company, top executives always insisted that they would rather create their own content than buy it. (A Bloomberg spokeswoman declined to comment.)
"Who will save the venerable media brand?" is a popular parlor game among news industry insiders, and Bloomberg commonly comes up as a potential white knight. The company reportedly had some interest in buying The New York Times, but those rumors were quietly dismissed.
Either times have changed or Bloomberg management has figured out how to make the acquisition work. To me, it seems to be a stretch.
Bloomberg already publishes Bloomberg Markets, one of the best business magazines around despite a fairly small full-time staff. It features work from some of Bloomberg's best journalists (I'm proud to say I was a regular contributor). Would it make sense to combine the glossy monthly with BusinessWeek? I am not sure what would be gained from it.
Advertising is not likely going to rebound for financial magazines for a long time -- if ever. Some have even speculated that BusinessWeek, whose advertising revenue fell by one-third in the first half of the year, would fetch a $1 for current owner McGraw-Hill.
And then there's the question of which BusinessWeek journalists to keep on. And, of course, many may decide the new owners aren't to their liking. BusinessWeek reporters also may have difficulty adjusting to Bloomberg's corporate culture, a high-stress environment often likened to an investment bank. Or, given the yawning gap between a reporter's pay and a Wall Street trader's, an electronic sweat shop.
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