BusinessWeek, where the action happens off-screen

September 15, 2009

McGraw-Hill set Tuesday as the due date for bids for the ailing BusinessWeek magazine, and at least as of 7:30 pm eastern time, nothing at all has happened. Since this is one of those stories where I’ve encountered absolutely no fruitful sources, I’ve relied on reading the reports of other people.

So what’s going to happen to the business news weekly? Let’s catch up with the latest:

It will not go to Lazard chief Bruce Wasserstein. The owner of New York magazine has enough to deal with in the slumping publishing world already, so he’s gone, reports BusinessWeek columnist Jon Fine.

Fine himself is bowing out of the action after presenting us with most of it. He and wife Laurel Touby (a media maven in her own right) are taking a six-month sabbatical to do more fun things in other parts of the world.

Bloomberg LP remains interested, along with various other bidders, say various media reports. As you might expect, no one there is talking to us evil arch-rivals at Reuters. I hear from Bloomberg journalists that no one there is talking to them either. Too bad, because it was Bloomberg journalist Greg Bensinger who helped break the story. (And so much the worse, as Bensinger is on honeymoon at the moment.)

No matter who buys it up, New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford tells us, via a memo she obtained, that Evercore — the banker group shopping BusinessWeek — is promising 20 percent layoffs across the board, including 55 of 217 journalists. 25 percent. Ouch!

The one bit of original reporting that I can offer you comes from the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference that I attended on Tuesday. I asked McGraw CEO Terry McGraw if keeping the magazine and scrapping the whole sale process is a possibility. His answer: “At this point all options are open.” He also said that this is a time for BusinessWeek to explore all options, such as going online only, or any other number of alternatives. They don’t all necessarily include selling the magazine.

My totally unfounded conjecture? He doesn’t want to sell BusinessWeek, but wants to show shareholders and his board that he gave it its best shot. Either way, Evercore gets paid.

But that is, as I said, unfounded conjecture. A deal could come at any time.

(Reuters Photo: McGraw-Hill CEO Harold “Terry” McGraw III, a man with a magazine to sell you)

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