L.A. Times reporter Ben Fritz reported earlier today that with Ron Burkle and Avenue Capital out of the running, Jay Penske, the owner of Deadline, is the “leading bidder” for Variety and is likely to buy the longstanding trade paper for about $30 million within the next three weeks.
Penske, 33, “plans to keep the Variety and Deadline brands distinct, according to a person familiar with his thinking,” Fritz wrote, “but it’s otherwise unclear how the outlets would be integrated.”
Let me explain something. Rationality, sensibleness and practicality usually prevail to some extent when a takeover happens, but they’re always mixed in with basic law-of-the-jungle rules and impulses. Never trust anyone who ignores the jungle element or says it doesn’t exist.
Variety is staffed with a lot of smart, crafty professionals — Steven Gaydos, Jeff Sneider, Justin Chang, Peter Debruges — but it’s an older, weaker lion in this equation, and Deadline is the younger, stronger, hungrier lion.
We all know what’s likely to happen. The first thing the younger lion does when he takes over is kill the older, weaker lion, and then he goes around and kills all the cubs, and then he goes to the lionesses and mates and produces cubs of his own. I’m not saying all the Variety cubs are goners, but it would be Pollyanic to presume that everything will stay intact and hunky-dory once Penske takes over. Forget it. One way or another there will be a lot of roaring and growling and bared fangs and more roaring and blood on the grass. It’s going to be traumatic. Just watch any documentary about lions.
The clarity of mind that comes to a man standing on the gallows is wonderful.
“Should the deal with Penske go through, it would mark a shift in power in the world of showbiz insider news,” Fritz wrote. “Founded in 2006 as a blog spinoff of editor in chief Nikki 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.”
“If the deal goes through, it could be a little bit awkward for Variety and Deadline to work under the same roof,” wrote The Atlantic Wire‘s Adam Clark Estes. “The six-year-old Deadline is likely somewhat responsible with the 107-year-old Variety’s downfall. Not only did Deadline offer up industry scoops for free after Variety went behind a paywall, but [Deadline‘s Nikki] Finke also made a habit of hiring away Variety‘s reporters to work for her site.”