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Variety Parent RBI to Shut Down 23 Magazines (But Not Variety)

Reed Elsevier fails to sell trade titles, decides to close most of them

Having tried unsuccessfully to sell most of its U.S. trade magazines, Variety magazine parent Reed Elsevier said on Friday that it will close 23 of them — though not Variety.

"This is very sad for all of us," Reed Business Information CEO Keith Jones wrote in a memo to staff.

The announcement effectively concludes the London-based company’s slow, strategic exit from the U.S. magazine business.

The titles being shuttered:

Building Design+Construction
Chain Leader
Construction Bulletin
Construction Equipment
Consulting-Specifying Engineer
Control Engineering
Converting
Foodservice Equipment & Supplies
Graphic Arts Blue Book
Graphic Arts Monthly
Hotels
Logistics Management
Material Handling Product News
Modern Materials Handling
Plant Engineering
Professional Builder
Professional Remodeler
Purchasing
Restaurant & Institutions
Semiconductor International
Spec Check
Supply Chain Management Review
Tradeshow Week

The company put those titles on the block — and others — last July, but managed to sell less than half, including Broadcasting & Cable last fall and, most recently, Publishers Weekly.

On Friday, the company the titles being shut down represent 45 percent of Reed Business Information’s U.S. revenues.

Reed Elsevier said it will continue to operate Variety, Marketcast and 411 Publishing, Reed Construction Data and its Buyerzone lead generation business.

In January, TheWrap reported RBI – which had insisted it was not putting its top title on the block — had been quietly dangling Variety before potential buyers. There had been at least two suitors for Variety, sources said at the time.

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

On New Year’s Eve, Poulin sent a memo warning staffers 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.

"These publications have had very experienced, professional and committed teams running them in the most difficult of circumstances," Jones wrote Friday. "However, their trading performances have been under pressure for some time and the impact of the recession and media migration in the markets for these titles is such that we cannot see our way back to profitable growth."

A spokesperson for RBI said the company would not disclose exactly how many employees were affected as part of the closings, though I’d imagine a few hundred. In the meantime, expect to see memos like this one.

More to read:

Publishers Weekly Sold to Former Publisher
Variety No Longer on the Market