Hollywood’s 107-year-old industry trade publication Variety and 6-year-old online competitor Deadline, headed by editor Nikki Finke, may soon be housed under the same corporate roof.
Penske Media Corp., the owner of Deadline and six other online properties, is now the leading bidder for Variety, partnered with private equity fund Shamrock Capital Advisors, according to two knowledgeable people not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The company, led by Jay Penske, the 33-year-old son of automobile magnate Roger Penske, could close a deal to purchase the paper in the next three weeks for around $30 million, one of the people added.
Billionnaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle dropped out of the bidding for Variety late last month. The other leading contender has been New York hedge fund Avenue Capital, owner of the National Enquirer. However, both Avenue and Burkle submitted bids of less than $25 million, said two people close to the sales process. A spokesman for Avenue declined to comment.
A spokesman for Variety parent Reed Elsevier, which put the publication up for sale in March, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Should the deal with Penske go through, it would mark a shift in power in the world of showbiz insider news. Founded in 2006 as a blog spinoff of editor in chief Finke’s industry column for L.A. Weekly, Deadline is a direct rival to Variety and its longtime rival the Hollywood Reporter and has become a dominant force in breaking and delivering online entertainment news.
Penske acquired Deadline in June 2009 and has grown it by hiring well-known reporters from Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and other outlets.
While Shamrock is providing most of the financial backing for the acquisition of Variety, Penske Media will operate the paper.
The young media mogul plans to keep the Variety and Deadline brands distinct, according to a person familiar with his thinking, but it’s otherwise unclear how the outlets would be integrated.