Sources tell BusinessWeek reporter Tom Lowry that the cash offer is in the $2 million to $5 million range, with Bloomberg agreeing to assume liabilities. That includes potential severance payments. The amazingly skimpy terms say plenty about the state of business magazines. So what now? Several senior staffers have already left, and there have been rumors of major layoffs. But Lowry says the reports of a planned scorched earth campaign are overblown.
For Bloomberg, buying BusinessWeek will be its first major acquisition ever and a significant departure for a 28-year-old company nurtured on a "build, don't buy" culture. "The BusinessWeek acquisition will yield huge benefits for users of the Bloomberg terminal, for our television, online and mobile properties," says Daniel L. Doctoroff, president of Bloomberg LP and a former deputy mayor of New York City appointed by Mayor Bloomberg. "We couldn't be more excited...We are not buying BusinessWeek to gut it. We are buying it to build it."
MarketWatch media columnist Jon Friedman doesn't get the deal at all.
You'd hate to conclude that privately owned Bloomberg is doing this deal because of a desire to satisfy an executive's ego. Still, it seems likely that whoever is driving this proposed acquisition will get a great deal of criticism. The magazine business is in trouble. Conde Nast recently closed several titles, including venerable Gourmet. Conde Nast also killed Portfolio, its ballyhooed business magazine, a few months ago, concluding that the glossy monthly had dreary prospects in this economy. What makes Bloomberg conclude that it can lead BusinessWeek to good health? Just as important, why does Bloomberg think BusinessWeek can be regarded as relevant? Weekly magazines, with the exception of The Week, are having a hard time gaining respect these days.