Wednesday’s merger of the publishers behind two rival Hollywood magazines — The Hollywood Reporter and Variety — was billed as a joint venture. But Media Ink has learned that Variety-owned Penske Media Corp. paid about $225 million to control 80 percent of the new PMRC entity.
MRC, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, will only retain a roughly 20-percent stake, sources said.
The deal will now result in hefty layoffs among MRC’s non-editorial staffers. About 50 back office workers, or 15 percent of the roughly 325 people who do accounting, human resources and other administrative work, are expected to be cut due to the merger with Penske’s team. At least one top executive is also headed for the exits, sources said. Deana Brown, president of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, is expected to say farewell after helping out with a transition. Brown could not be reached for comment.
The editorial side is expected to come through relatively unscathed, however, with Hannah Karp remaining as editorial director of Billboard and Nekesa Mumbi Moody staying on as editor-in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter, and Dtwoon Thomas staying at the editorial helm of Vibe.
Even Claudia Ellers — the Variety editor-in-chief who was forced to take a leave of absence in June after a column on the lack of racial diversity at the mag ignited a Twitter storm — might stay on. Sources close to the company say she has been undergoing diversity training and counseling and that Penske is mulling having her reinstated. At the time of her stormy exit, Penske did not name a permanent replacement, instead bringing back ex-EIC Cynthia Littleton to run the paper on an acting basis.
As The Post reported Wednesday, Penske, son of auto-racing kingpin Roger Penske, will manage the newly combined company’s trade titles, which is largest part of the operation. The merger joins Penske’s Variety, Rolling Stone and Music Business Insider together with MRC’s The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe.
“It’s an upending of the whole editorial system out here,” said one entertainment industry source about the prospects of rivals THR and Variety under the same corporate ownership.
MRC’s co-CEOs Asif Satchu and Mudi Wiczyk will retain control of a studio business that produces TV shows, movies and videos. Sources said Penske hopes to have some of the journalism stories that appear in Rolling Stone and other properties turned into long-form videos and movies by the studio side.
Penske’s PMC has long coveted THR, known for breaking salacious stories on Hollywood insiders, despite concerns that it’s been losing millions. Conde Nast was said to have tried to buy it in 2016, and Jimmy Finkelstein, owner of The Hill, reportedly circled THR two years later with a $100 million offer.
Penske came into the merger flush with cash thanks to a controversial $225 million infusion in 2018 from the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, a publicly traded company with close ties to the Saudi royal family, which took a passive 20 percent stake in PMC.
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