The full list of potential buyers for Newsweek is a closely kept secret, but unless it contains a stunner, Fred Drasner will most likely be its next owner. The Washington, D.C., businessman was a somewhat late entry into the process, but, as other suitors stumble, Drasner is emerging as the ailing newsweekly's best chance at a turnaround.
Part of that's because of the brainpower Drasner is recruiting to his cause: According to the New York Post, he's teaming with Larry Ingrassia, the longtime head of Dow Jones Newswires who also won a Pulitzer Prize as The Wall Street Journal's Detroit bureau chief, and Alan Webber, former editorial director of the Harvard Business Review.
Drasner and Webber have been in business before: Webber was the co-founder of Fast Company, which Drasner and his then-partner, Mort Zuckerman, sold in 2000 for $350 million, one of the richest sales of a magazine ever. (The deal could've been worth as much as $510 million if the magazine had hit certain performance targets, but the advertising market took a nosedive shortly after the sale, making Zuckerman and Drasner's timing look prescient.)
Other Suitors Out of the Picture
Two other would-be buyers, Newsmax Media and financier Thane Ritchie, are no longer in contention. The New York Times says that the Washington Post Co. (WPO) decided their politics -- Newsmax publishes a right-wing magazine, and Ritchie is a libertarian who has dabbled in politics -- make them unsuitable stewards.
That leaves OpenGate Capital, a private-equity firm, and Sidney Harman, an elderly stereo-equipment mogul. A Newsweek source I spoke with before Drasner threw his hat into the ring told me the prevailing sentiment of the staff was that Harman would make the better owner, since a private-equity firm will doubtless be looking to cut costs and resell the magazine in five or so years.
But a high-ranking Washington Post Co. source cautioned me against concluding that the suitors who've been publicly named are the only interested parties. "If you really wanted to buy it, what do you gain by making that known?" he asked. And, indeed, it's worth remembering that when New York magazine was for sale, no one knew until the very last moment that Bruce Wasserstein was planning a bid. His stealthiness allowed him to snatch the weekly out from under the nose of a consortium led by Zuckerman.
Is someone similarly crafty waiting in the wings to grab Newsweek?
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