Sidney Harman’s “primary responsibility,” he told The Washington Post, is to make arrangements for Newsweek to fall into his children’s hands or the hands of an outside owner after his death. Mr. Harman turns 92 tomorrow.
“It would be a remarkable conceit to tell you at this stage in the game that I have a plan,” Mr. Harman told The New York Times shortly after announcing that he purchased the magazine. “The plan is there to be had. I regard myself as well equipped.” The exact terms of the sale are unknown, but The Times reports that Mr. Harman has promised to keep at least 250 of the magazine’s staff, which is somewhere around 325.
Mr. Harman told Mike Allen that he did not buy Newsweek to make money and he would be “delighted” if the magazine can break even. Mr. Harman called Washington Post Co. chairman Donald Graham “an old friend.”
Mr. Harman got the idea to buy the magazine from Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman, who explained to Mr. Harman that the magazine was worth saving over lunch at the Hay-Adams hotel in Washington D.C., according to Michael Calderone. “I told him that it’s a great nameplate, and it’s worth saving for several reasons, one of which is its global reach,” Mr. Fineman told The Daily Beast. “It really does circulate around the world.”
As for Jon Meacham, he has been quiet on the matter. “This summer I decided that the change in ownership was a natural occasion for me to move on,” he wrote in an email to the Newsweek staff yesterday. “As I have told [Mr. Harman], no one will be rooting for him, for you, and for the institution more than I will,” he added.
Mr. Meacham told Mr. Calderone that his future will sort itself out and that “right now the focus needs to be on the transition.”
Newsweek CEO Tom Ascheim will stay on to work with Mr. Harman, according to Keith Kelly. The Post’s list of replacements for Mr. Meacham includes Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, Tina Brown and Walter Isaacson, who used to edit Time and is close with Mr. Harman through the Apsen Institute, a research group.
The Washington Post Co. did not disclose terms of the deal, but noted it will retain pension assets and liabilities and “certain employee obligations” that came up before the sale. The company also reported that the “resulting gain or loss at closing is not expected to be material” to its financial position (official earnings will be released on Friday). One source said Harman’s offer was believed to be $70 million higher than the competition’s
“What the sale to Mr. Harman suggests, perhaps more than anything else,” wrote Times reporters Jeremy Peters and Tanzina Vega, “is that the right owner for a struggling media property like Newsweek is someone who can afford to lose tens of millions of dollars a year while the magazine tries to find a more successful approach.”
We’re not entirely sold on that idea. Mr. Harman seems like the right buyer, but we don’t know anything yet about his ownership.