Variety No Longer on the Market

Parent had quietly shopped venerable trade magazine; will now hold onto title, two others

Last Updated: February 19, 2010 @ 10:16 AM

It appears Variety has come off the block, just as quietly as it went on.

Reed Elsevier, the parent company of Variety publisher Reed Business Information, said on Thursday that it now plans to retain the venerable Hollywood trade, along with Reed Construction Data and BuyerZone, a lead generation business, according to the company’s presentation to investors.

The company had been quietly shopping Variety, but found few interested buyers, according to an M&A source.

"Variety and the entertainment group, Reed Construction Data and the BuyerZone lead generation business are being retained," the company said in its presentation.

This, despite the fact that revenues were down 16 percent for the three in 2009, the company said.

But they fared better than the rest of the RBI portfolio. Overall advertising revenues (which account for nearly half of RBI’s business) fell 29 percent. Online was down 14 percent; print 37 percent.

RBI warned investors on Thursday that it is anticipating "another difficult year with further revenue declines."

It’s not clear how the long the search for a suitor for Variety lasted this time. In January, TheWrap reported RBI – which had insisted it was not putting its top title on the block — has been quietly dangling Variety before potential buyers for some time. There had been at least two suitors for Variety, sources said last month.

In July, when RBI announced that it would sell off its magazines piece-by-piece, it said it was planning to keep Variety, its crown jewel.

John Poulin, RBI’s chief executive, did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

On New Year’s Eve, Poulin sent a memo to update staffers about its ongoing sale process, and to warn them that the first half of 2010 was not going to be pretty.

“We have not been able to sell the business as a whole,” Poulin wrote, “and this unfortunately will result in title closures and job losses across the business during the first half of the New Year. I know that this will come as a major disappointment but reflects the impact of the structural changes in our markets, accelerated by the recession.”

In January, RBI shuttered the 26-year-old Video Business.

Reed put Variety and the rest of RBI up for sale close to two years ago, but took the publishing unit off the block near the end of 2008, when bids were said to have fallen from approximately $2 billion to $1 billion.

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