Billboard's Parent to Buy Hollywood Reporter

Times Staff Writers

The Hollywood Reporter, the entertainment industry's oldest surviving daily trade publication, said Monday that it has agreed to be acquired by Affiliated Publications, the parent company of the Boston Globe and Billboard magazine.

The terms of the sale were not disclosed, but a Boston securities analyst estimated that the price will range from $15 million to $25 million.

That estimate was termed "much too low" by Arthur M. Kassel, vice president of telecommunications for the parent company, Hollywood Reporter Industries. Kassel is married to the company's sole shareholder and publisher, Tichi Wilkerson Kassel, who was unavailable for comment.

The two companies announced, however, that the 58-year-old publisher has agreed to continue in her dual jobs as publisher and editor-in-chief. Mrs. Kassel assumed the helm in 1962 after the death of her first husband, William R. (Billy) Wilkerson, who founded the Hollywood Reporter in 1930.

If completed, the deal would mark the fifth such sale of an entertainment-related trade publication in 14 months. Radio & Records, Broadcasting, Variety and Daily Variety have all changed hands, and Billboard--which covers the music industry--itself was acquired less than a year ago for $100 million from Boston Ventures Limited Partnership, a venture capital firm.

The agreement in principle with Hollywood Reporter Industries was signed by the Billboard Publications unit of Affiliated.

"It's really a Billboard deal, although it's the Globe's money," said Elizabeth Harbison, a securities analyst for the Boston brokerage firm of Adams, Harkness & Hill. "Billboard's mission is to be a premier entertainment industry trade publication. I think they can add management."

It was Harbison's estimate that the publication is selling for $15 million to $25 million. Harbison said she did not believe that the publication was currently profitable. "That's my sense; if it is profitable, it's marginal," the analyst said.

Arthur Kassel insisted however, that "this magazine is very, very financially successful."

In addition to the Hollywood Reporter, the company publishes about 70 special issues, operates an electronic database and publishes the Studio Blu-Book Directory, an annual guide that lists film industry suppliers and services.

The company recently debuted a weekly cable-TV show called "Hollywood Reporter Executive Report," hosted by its business editor, Martin Grove, and has three other shows in the works, Kassel said.

Boston-based Affiliated already publishes other trade magazines in the entertainment field: Amusement Business, Backstage, Music & Media and Musician.

Affiliated Chief Financial Officer Art Kingsbury said the Hollywood Reporter acquisition would result in "no changes overnight," adding that "Tichi and her staff are doing a super job now."

The Affiliated executive continued: "Our goal is to be the premier publisher" in the entertainment industry. He declined to say whether the company is "taking on" Variety, but he observed that "Variety is certainly the lead publication; it would be a lofty goal to try to displace them."

As of Sept. 30, the Hollywood Reporter said its unaudited circulation was 21,120, while Daily Variety reported audited figures of 22,395.

The sales price of Variety and Daily Variety, sold in October to Cahners Publishing Co., was never publicly disclosed.

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