Newsweek Sold to Sidney Harman; Jon Meacham Out

Editor to exit in September; Harman: Magazine “is a national treasure”

Last Updated: September 30, 2010 @ 8:42 AM

It's done: The Washington Post Company has agreed to sell Newsweek to Sidney Harman.

The Post and Harman, the 91-year-old audio equipment magnate, agreed to the deal on Monday.

As TheWrap previously reported, Harman will pay a "small amount of cash" and assume the magazine's heavy deby load, an arrangement similar to TV Guide's 2008 sale to OpenGate Capital — which was one of Newsweek's reported suitors.

As part of the agreement, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham announced he will be leaving the company once the sale is complete.

According to Newsweek, Harman beat out several other finalists, including former U.S. News & World Report and the New York Daily News proprietor Fred Drasner, Avenue Capital and "several unnamed American and foreign companies."

“Newsweek is a national treasure,” Harman said in a statement. “I am enormously pleased to be succeeding The Washington Post Company and the Graham family and look forward to this great journalistic, business, and technological challenge.”

He added: "I did not and do not think of this in traditional business terms. The purpose of the investment is to provide fuel for the transition of the magazine in its current position into a thriving operation in the print, mobile and digital worlds. … I'll consider it a victory when it breaks even. Breaking even is a big deal."

The deal ends nearly a half-century of ownership by the Washington Post Company, which bought Newsweek in 1961. The magazine was founded in 1933.

“In seeking a buyer for Newsweek, we wanted someone who feels as strongly as we do about the importance of quality journalism,” Washington Post chairman Don Graham said in a statement announcing the deal. “We found that person in Sidney Harman. He has pledged not only to continue to produce a lively, compelling and first-rate news magazine, but also an equally dynamic Newsweek.com – and he intends to keep a majority of Newsweek’s very talented staff.”

“It has been a privilege beyond measure to have worked for Newsweek and for the Washington Post Company for the past 15 years," Meacham wrote in an e-mail to staffers announcing his eventual exit. "I will always be grateful for the opportunity the magazine gave me to serve alongside all of you. For half a century the Graham family created and sustained a culture in which we were able to do good, important work, and I know Newsweek will continue to do so."

“This summer I decided that the change in ownership was a natural occasion for me to move on, and I told Don and [Newsweek managing director] Ann [McDaniel] that I would see the magazine through the sale and then explore what may be next for me. I wish Mr. Harman and his team all the success in the world. As I have told him, no one will be rooting for him, for you, and for the institution more than I will. The journalism you create matters to the country and to the world, perhaps now more than ever.”

No decision on who will replace Meacham has been made, according to the magazine. Newsweek CEO Tom Ascheim will remain in that role under the new ownership. The deal is expected to close in late August or early September.

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