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Hollywood Reporter, Billboard sold

December 10, 2009 | 10:52 am

After months of speculation about their future, entertainment industry trade newspaper the Hollywood Reporter, music industry paper Billboard and six other publications owned by Nielsen Business Media have been sold.

Thr  Their new owner is a consortium of investors led by James Finkelstein, whose News Communications controls publications including Washington paper The Hill and the "Who's Who" directories. In addition, Finkelstein owns Thompson Publishing Group, which puts out a variety of niche publications about government regulations. [Update, 2:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that News Communications owns Roll Call.]

The acquisition is officially being done by e5 Global Media, a new company led by Finkelstein as chairman. It was formed for the purpose of this acquisition by financial services firm Guggenheim Partners and Pluribus Capital Management, a private equity fund focused on media and led by Finkelstein; Matthew Doull, a former associate publisher of Wired UK, and George Green, former chief executive of Hearst Magazines International.

Lachlan Murdoch, the son of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, was previously reported to be part of the acquisition, but was not involved in the final deal, for which financial details were not disclosed.

Two Nielsen publishing industry trade magazines that are not part of the acquisition, Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews, are being shut down, Nielsen Business Media President Greg Farrar said in a memo posted on the news media blog Romenesko.

The deal comes as the Hollywood Reporter, like many publications, has been struggling to stay alive and laying off substantial portions of its staff in the last couple of years due to the recession-driven decline in advertising and the shift to digital distribution. Many in Hollywood have wondered whether the 79-year-old publication would continue to print five days per week or if it would print less frequently after the lucrative "awards season," during which studios take out ads to boost the chances of their movies winning Academy Awards, ends in March.

The Reporter's biggest rival, Variety, which has also laid off staff this year, is in the process of ending free access to its website in a bid to boost digital revenue.

Other Nielsen publications being acquired by e5 include Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, The Clio Awards, Back Stage and Film Journal International.

In a statement, Finkelstein appeared to be committed to growing the publications he is buying and not continuing the recent trend of cutbacks:

"These are unique brands that are already leaders in their respective fields and, with the additional financial and strategic resources that we will provide, they will be positioned to add enhanced content across their print, online and new media channels and to continue to deliver value to their subscribers and advertisers."

-- Ben Fritz