RBI Warns of Layoffs, Magazine Closures in 2010

Sometimes it feels like Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier (RUK), has been trying to unload its magazine division for centuries. In reality, it has only been about two years, but bungled auctions, abandoned sales, CEO shuffles and many rounds of layoffs have made what was already a complex process positively labyrinthine.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% RBI did manage to sell off Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News, and Twice to NewBay Media, and kept Variety (only to put its content back behind a pay wall), but still hoped to sell the 50-odd remaining titles as one unit to a prospective buyer. Those hopes are now officially dashed.

In a year-end memo obtained by the website paidContent, current RBI CEO John Poulin (pictured), who moved up from CFO when his predecessor, Tad Smith, left the company last summer, said that no one has stepped up to buy the entire package. As a result, RBI is in "advanced discussions to sell a number of titles to separate purchasers and, if these are satisfactorily concluded, expect to make announcements on these sales in the next few months." As for the future of the magazines RBI can't sell, you can guess: The memo promises "title closures and job losses across the business during the first half of the New Year."

RBI's plans could deal a major blow to the publishing industry, as the company owns and operates Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and School Library Journal, trade magazines which have weathered the brunt of their parent company's long-running sales declines. The closure talk also comes on the heels of Nielsen's shutdown of Kirkus Reviews, which published its last issue on Friday. (There is talk that Kirkus may have some interested buyers, but the trade magazine's managing editor denied there was any news to report.)

Clearly, based on Poulin's year-end missive, any interested buyers will be able to scoop up available magazines at bargain-basement prices. But for those left behind to face inevitable layoffs, the sound of a new year ringing in just got a lot more hollow.

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